Review: Simplicity and ingenuity bring Eliot tale to life in The Mill on the Floss at the Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth

Charles Essex reviews The Mill on the Floss, directed by Sam Harris at the Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth

Leigh Walker, Paige Phelps and Katie-Anne Ray, who play the three ages of Maggie
Leigh Walker, Paige Phelps and Katie-Anne Ray, who play the three ages of Maggie

The Mill on the Floss follows Maggie Tulliver maturing from a young girl to an adult woman.

Innovative direction by Sam Harris portrayed the three ages of Maggie with separate actors.

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Leigh Walker was the youngest – impulsive, wilful and highly intelligent, with an innocent joy of the world.

Paige Phelps portrayed the altruistic Maggie who had had a Damascus Road revelation and realised that looking out from self towards others was the way forward.

Katie-Ann Ray was the adult Maggie, torn by love and clashing desires. All three actors played their parts exceptionally well.

The change between the different Maggies was cleverly portrayed by looking in the full length ‘mirror’ and the new Maggie stepping forward, but often all three were on stage simultaneously. This was a wonderful representation of the mature Maggie who was conflicted by the voices in her head – the impulsive young Maggie and the restrained selfless Maggie.

Often considered to be George Eliot’s most autobiographical novel, all the cast did well as only eight actors played 17 parts but this production would have benefited from a slightly larger cast for ease of identification of some characters.

Laurie Weston shone in his three roles, doing extraordinarily well as the crippled Philip Wakem.

Ben Wellicome was excellent as Tom Tulliver, Maggie’s brother, teasing her when they were children and overly possessive and paternalistic in adulthood.

The movement scenes, choreographed and directed by Alasdair Stewart, formerly of Motionhouse dance company, were ingenious as the cast represented the swirling and ultimately deadly waters of the Floss.

The whole production profited from the simple stage and minimal props. The background music and changes of the single colour backlighting added to and complemented the atmosphere.

It was quite a long performance which could have been trimmed but that does not detract from another top-notch Talisman production.

The Mill on the Floss runs until Saturday May 21. Visit talismantheatre.co.uk or call 01926 856548 to book.