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THEATRE REVIEW- “Anna of the Five Towns” by Arnold Bennett – New Vic Theatre

3 June 2017 Theatre


All true Stokies have heard of Arnold Bennett, probably the most famous Potteries writer and a chronicler of Edwardian life in this area.

Deborah McAndrew has now adapted Bennett’s first novel, “Anna of the Five Towns” for the New Vic Theatre’s latest production, with direction by Conrad Nelson.

It’s the story of Anna Tellwright ( Lucy Bromilow) and her battle with her overbearing father Ephraim (Robin Simpson) to assert her independence, set against the background of the harsh industrial landscape of the Potteries. The story also explores the romance between Anna and the pottery owner, Henry Mynors (Mark Anderson) and also her wish to help the son of a failing pottery owner , Willie Price (local actor, Benedict Shaw).

Throughout the production, there is an underlying theme that Anna does what she feel is her duty (looking after her bullying father, marrying the well to do Henry) rather than what her heart tells her she should do.

The whole story is interspersed with musical interludes from the excellent Phoenix Singers, who hail from Leek.

For anyone interested in local Potteries history and the social history of the pre-First World War Potteries this is a fascinating story which, despite the length, has been well adapted for the stage.

However the audience does not always warm to Anna, who does not show her emotions easily, and this is not helped by Lucy Bromilow’s rather staccato delivery. Robin Simpson certainly brings a fearsomeness to the role of Ephraim Tellwright, her money –hoarding father, but his accent does sometimes veer all the way from Lancashire to the Black Country , with only occasional visits to Stoke-on-Trent .

Benedict Shaw does a solid job as Willie Price , who Anna does her best to help, and his accent cannot be criticised. For me however the scene stealer was Rosie Abraham as Anna’s sister, Agnes. She brought a life and vitality to every scene in which she appeared, and gave a lighter touch to the production.

This is the 150th anniversary of Bennett’s birth so why not celebrate it with a visit to The New Vic Theatre ?

“ Anna of the Five Towns “ runs at the New Vic Theatre until Saturday June 17th . Telephone 01782 717962 for tickets.

Written by Ian Corbishley – Hitmix Radio


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