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David Porter » Reviews » Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm

Sewell Barn Theatre, Norwich

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 11 July 2009

Cold Comfort Farm

A gnarled old tyrannical matriach who ‘saw something nasty in the woodshed’ when she was young and has milked it ever since, is just one of many weird and wonderful characters who people this funny farm.

The play is a parody of doom-laden rural literature from Austin to Hardy, and the intimacy of the Sewell Barn well serves the breaking of the fourth wall, the direct address and an enjoyable proximity to madness.

Young Flora (difficult part, well handled by Annette Phillips) arrives to bring new ideas, less madness and some order into her relatives’ chaotic farm. These are the delightfully loopy Starkadders, disturbed and disturbing: Ruth Howitt, Ian Shepherd, Tom Marshall, Tristan Cliffe, Matt Bishop and Lucy Atkins while Amberlee Foote is especially peculiar and Anne Giles is that old woman with an edge of evil cunning.

The directors, Trudy McGilvray and Sarah Roat, use the quirks of the building to great effect and there is a chorus of village idiots who appear on a balcony with superb impact.

The hellfire speech is a triumph and support performances are just right. The language is often fragmented, comic and bizarre as layers of isolated countryside insanity are unpeeled.

The eating and other stage business is frantic and very fiunny – watch out for the old clock which erupts periodically!

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