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The stage version of Silas Marner is presented by an ensemble cast.

Silas Marner at White Rock Theatre

To mark the bicentenary of the birth of George Eliot, a stage play of her novel Silas Marner is being brought to the White Rock Theatre by Conn Artists on Saturday 12 October. Nick Terdre reports.

George Eliot – or Mary Ann Evans, to give her her true name – was born on 22 November 2019. One of the country’s leading 19th century writers, Silas Marner was her third novel, published in 1861.

It tells the story of a poor weaver wrongfully condemned and outcast from society, who becomes a doomed miser and recluse, until he is forced to take in a young orphan girl. Their mutual friendship leads to joy, love and his redemption.

The story contains powerful and socially engaging themes relevant to today’s audiences, including the integration of the lonely individual into the community and social cohesion; the goodness to be found in everyday human relations; the importance of acts of kindness between people; the pursuit of money not leading to happiness; adoption and the chance of salvation from a point of spiritual despair.

For Conn Artists Theatre Company, Silas Marner has a contemporary resonance. They say they have chosen to produce the piece “as the issues explored are so topical, especially when considering immigration, the break-up or loss of communities, more diverse and unconventional forms of family life; and today’s over-emphasis on the accumulation of wealth,” the group says.

Ensemble cast of seven

The action, set in the early years of the 19th century, is performed by an ensemble cast of seven actors accompanied by music and songs of the period.

“The stage version of Silas Marner is a wonderful opportunity for actors to create live theatre, its sounds and actions using the simplest of props to create a whole community and drama,” says director Nick Young, who trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

“Masks and puppets are used to enhance the production. The great range of three-dimensional characters, and the moral dilemmas faced by many of them, offers performers enormous scope, whilst at the same time creating an ensemble company.

Silas Marner is a multi-faceted piece of work which draws the audience in, has them sitting on the edge of their seats, makes them worry about what will be the outcome of a situation, and allows them to rejoice in the ‘happily ever after’ conclusion, which has only been earned through the behaviour of the eponymous hero.”

The novel was originally adapted for the stage by Geoffrey Beevers for the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. This revival by Conn Artists, supported by Arts Council England, the George Eliot Fellowship and Worthing Theatres, is touring the play regionally for the first time, visiting 15 venues in all.

It comes to the White Rock Theatre for a single performance at 7.30pm on Saturday 12 October. Tickets – £18.50. Concessions and under 16s: £16.50. Students: £14.50 – are available online or from the box office (01424 462288).

Posted 10:21 Tuesday, Oct 8, 2019 In: Performance

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