Based on Laurie Lee’s
seminal novel, the Cheltenham Everyman production of Cider
with Rosie attempts to capture the innocent spirit of a
childhood spent in a tight-knit community in the Cotswolds just after
the turn of the 20th century. However this production fails to
translate the rural warmth Lee so famously illustrated in his novel
and leaves the audience cold, and at times, restless.
Phil R Daniels and
Charles Cusick Smith’s bleached wood set is charmless and fails
to invoke the warmth of a loving family home, which makes the actor’s
jobs that much harder. Although a gauze with a violin cut out adds
interesting texture, instead of utilising Michael E Hall’s
lighting design to its best advantage the setting instead relies upon
quick fixes – such as white sheets to symbolise snow – rather
than engaging the audience’s imagination.
The ensemble cast
certainly give energetic performances and Nicola Sangster and
Madeleine MacMahon’s brief moments as two feuding old ladies adds
a nice comic flair to the evening. But this is all too brief and
Paul Milton’s direction doesn’t set up each of the characters
as individuals and so the cast blur into one mass.
Susie Blake gives a
fine performance as Laurie Lee’s mother, radiating love and
affection without ever becoming sickly sweet. As her character ages
Blake draws out the audience’s sympathy towards the vivacious
matriarch slowly being eroded by dementia and there are some touching
moments in the second act.
Darke’s script doesn’t drive the action forward with leaves the
show lacking tension and drama. One of the reasons Cider
with Rosie was such as successful novel was because of its
beautifully crafted descriptions of rural life, but in this
adaptation they become cumbersome. Although there are a few stand-out
performances, this show is not one to write home about.