Theatre Rewards Those That Take Risks – The Clearing – Miller Centre Theatre Company – Review

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Theatre rewards the risk takers. Not just the cast and creatives but audiences that step outside the safety of what they know.

The Clearing

This production is a treasure,  a pearl of great price for those that will seek it out.

A play about Oliver Cromwell’s genocide in 17th century Ireland is not an easy sell from a marketing point of view. This is a play about so much more, with a disturbing relevance for our divisive 21st century. Helen Edmundson has finely crafted a tense, emotional and dramatic story. I studied this play at college and it has remained with me since that first reading. It has one of the best final scenes of any play I’ve read or seen.

High praise to director Chester Stern who set this play in the round. Which allowed for a fluid change of scenes. He brought the best out of his cast and created the harrowing world of 17th century Ireland before our eyes.

The cast got a (rare) standing ovation from me. I’ve never seen a better amateur cast. Being brutally honest they were better than a great deal of so-called “professional” casts I’ve seen.

Robin Clark gives his greatest performance to date as Robert Preston the English gentleman caught between saving his way of life and yet trapped by his marriage to Madeleine his Irish Catholic wife. His tragic descent from hero to selfish turncoat were superbly shown by Robin.

Lucy Baker as his passionate wife Madeleine gave an equally brilliant performance. Particularly moving was her scene at the docks with Pamela Cuthill’s Killaine who is in chains, destitute, broken and bound for a life of slavery. It’s a scene that’ll stay with me. It was dramatic, touching and brought tears to our eyes. Their interaction throughout the play was a joy to watch. The relationship between these two is the heart of the story for me.

The villainous Sir Charles Sturman was played by Lawrence Marsh. What a nasty piece of work! Yet Lawrence gave him a zeal and religious intensity that made us realise he really did think he was being merciful and Christian in committing such atrocities all in the name of “cleansing” this “wicked land”.

Mark Pendry and Sally Bosman are touching as the kindly Solomon and Susaneh Winter. Their pleading before the judge was particularly moving as were the dilemmas they face. I’ve seen Mark in a few things, this performance certainly rates as his best.

Cris Semple digs deep to bring fire and the sense of injustice in nationalist Pierce. A small but vital role as his character lingers in the background of all the goings on.

Tony Dent provides support as a commissioner, a judge and a sailor. He gives weight to these small roles as they’re present at key scenes. His sailor in the aforementioned dock scene was truly menacing.

The play cleverly shows how being thrown into turmoil affects people in different ways, and offers a warning that we may not be as righteous as we may think , God forbid, we should ever be in a similar situation.

So as you can see I loved it. It’s on until 8th June. Make the effort,  you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable night at the theatre. Tickets can be bought here.

I normally refrain from giving amateur productions a star rating. On this occasion I make a valid exception. Nothing amateur about this production.

STARS : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Ps. I declare that I know the director and some of the cast. Yet this is no hyperbole but heartfelt. I am genuinely proud of what they’ve achieved with this piece.

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2 thoughts on “Theatre Rewards Those That Take Risks – The Clearing – Miller Centre Theatre Company – Review

  1. I and my partner, as season ticket holders, have been going to the Miller Centre for years and we have to agree with you: both the play itself – with its brilliantly tight and effective, evocative dialogue – and the amazing, exceptional cast were a joy (and we are used to seeing professional standards at the Miller Centre) . It will stay with me forever as a gem, and I have recommended the play itself to a friend, who often performs at the Brighton Little Theatre, as a fantastic play. We have seen some great stuff at the Miller Centre over the years, but this, I am tempted to say, was the best!

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