Saturday 23rd July to Saturday 30th July 1983
The Southampton Echo wrote:
Brian Stansbridge is thinking of carrying a mileometer with him as he approaches the last two nights of the Maskers Theatre Company's production of "Tom Jones" at Mottisfont Abbey, near Romsey. For, playing the eponymous hero, he has to cover considerable distances, as he runs across the green sward of this beautiful venue, chasing village girls, careering through the shrubberies, along the water's edge and running barefoot over the stones of the stable yard.
This lusty, country romp, the dramatised adaptation from the novel by Henry Fielding, is brought vividly to life at Mottisfont, in a colourful, fast-paced production by Graham Buchanan. He uses two locations - one side of the house, where there is a good deal of exposition on the life of young Tom, and his initiation into the joys of a roll in the bushes with a comely wench. Then, a switch to the stable yard and a move to an almost farce-like drama.
The speed at which this is played, the ingenuity of the staging, the timing of the players, the sheer hilarity of it all is a tribute to Mr Buchanan and his team. But there is more fun to come, when the audience returns to the first location. The production has only two nights left to run (Friday and Saturday) but anyone who goes should watch out for brilliant cameos: Jim Smith as the leering, dastardly Lord Fellamar, leching after Sophia; a performance of great style and accomplishment and Philip de Grouchy as Mr Thwackum, who is caught is the bushes with a sexy, bucolic wench, played by Sheana Carrington. The lady brings to her part an earthiness and winsome quality, while Mr De Grouchy excels as the hypocrite who teaches certain precepts in a declamatory manner but does not live up to them. Look out too for Ken Spencer, as the bluff Irish captain, David Jupp, one of the Maskers' most reliable players, as the gruff Squire Western and Carol Clarke, who has a fine voice - which is needed for open air playing - as a very appealing Sophia.
But leading the cast and giving the production its direction is Brian Stansbridge, who lusts, loves, romps and positively jumps his way through an exhilarating production, which is exquisitely costumed, and, on a sunny summer evening at Mottisfont, adds up to first class entertainment.
|Tom Jones, the bastard son||Brian Stansbridge|
|Squire Allworthy||Peter Neve|
|Bridget Allworthy ,his wife||Jean Durman|
|Jenny Jones, her maid||Meri Lawther|
|Mr. Thwackum, the Tutor||Philip de Grouchy|
|Master Blifil, the Squires heir||Tony Lawther|
|Squire Western, a neighbour||David Jupp|
|Molly Seagram, a slut||Sheana Carrington|
|Honour, not such a bad slut||Meri Lawther|
|The Doctor||Michael Johnson|
|Susan, the Inn maid||Shiela Clark|
|Mrs. Waters, a type of Lady||Joan Johnson|
|Mrs Fitzpatrick, the unfortunate wife of the captain||Ann Archer|
|Betty, her maid||Sandy White|
|Captain Fitzpatrick, an officer and gentleman, of sorts||Ken Spencer|
|Lord Fellamar||Jim Smith|
|The Constable||Derek Sealy|
|Andrews, a servant||Gardner Chalmers|
|Bystanders||Michael Johnson, Adrian Clarke|
|Citizens, Bawda and Trollopes||Sonia Morris, Gill Buchanan, Julia Patterson|
|For the Maskers:|
|Producer and Stage Manager||Michael Patterson|
|Lighting Design||Clive Weeks|
|Lighting Control||Alan Moore|
|Wardrobe||Lilian Gunstone, Gill Buchanan, Sarah Buchanan, Kay Hann|
|Poster Design||Jahn Hamon|
|Fight Arranger||Ken Spencer|
|Box Office||Sylvia Pankhurst|
|Car Parking||David Pankhurst|
Henry Fielding was born on 22nd April 1707 at Glastonbury in Somerset. Educated both at private school and Eton he was briefly involved in a love affair with an heiress at Lyme Regis, but made his way to London where in 1728 he published a satirical poem ‘The Masquerade’ and a comedy ‘Love in Several Masks’. Afterwards he went to the University of Leyden to study Classical Literature.
By autumn 1729 he was back in London and by 1737 had written some 25 pieces of various kinds. His topical satire ‘The Historical Register’ lampooned Sir Robert Walpole and attacked his government: it was partly because of this play that Wapole introduced the Stage Licensing Act of 1737 – which ended Fielding’s career, not only as a playwright but also as a theatre manager: for he had formed his own company and was running the Little Theatre, Haymarket.
He then embarked on a new career as a Law student at Middle Temple – being called to the bar in June 1740 after only 2½ years’ study (compared to the normal 6 or 7).
In Salisbury in 1734 he met, wooed and eloped with the beautiful Charlotte Cradock (the model for Sophia Western in tonight’s play). More novels were published, but in the winter of 1744 Charlotte – having borne him two daughters (only one surviving), died in his arms of a fever. Nevertheless he continued to write, and in the summer of 1746 began Tom Jones, finishing it in late 1748.
On 27th November 1747 he married Mary Daniel – his first wife’s maid – who bore him 5 children in 7 years, from which much capital was made by his enemies.
Partly in recognition of his work as a political journalist Fielding was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Westminster in 1748, and after the success of Tom Jones his jurisdiction was extended to the whole of Middlesex. By now he was a very sick man, suffering from the gout, and in 1749 he was severely ill: yet he devoted the last five years of his life to fighting London’s widespread crime and corruption. In April 1753 he resigned and left for Lisbon in June, but died on 8th October 1754.
His cousin Lady Montagu wrote: “It is a pity he was not immortal – he was so formed for happiness”
But of Tom Jones Samuel Johnson wrote: “I scarcely know a more corrupt work”The Review Click to enlarge
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