Student Review: Tess by Rutuja Lokare

Central is a dancer performing as Tess of the d'Urbervilles in the Ockham's Razor prodcution Tess. Very fluid movement, her long skirt is twirling, as is her long dark hair. In the background are several dancers in similar dresses, most of them in a handstand and legs in a split position in the air.
Image by Kie Cummings
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Tess production photo: two performers bend over backwards to smile into one another's eyes; other performers lounge in a sparse wooden frame behind them.
Photo by Kie Cummings
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Tess production photo: three performers dressed in similar, pale, linen dresses hug one another from behind; they are bathed in a warm glow.
Photo by Kie Cummings
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Tess production photo: four performers twirl in full-skirted white dresses, bathed in an orange glow; on the wall behind them, a red fire is projected.
Photo by Kie Cummings
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A breathtaking fusion of storytelling through physical theatre, dance, and aerial acrobatics set against a backdrop that transports you through time.

Mon 11 Mar, Northcott Theatre
by Rutuja Lokare

Tess production photo: a performer in a full-skirted, pale linen dress struggles to carry 4 huge planks of wood on her shoulders; in the background, three other woman, similarly dressed, look on.
Photo by Kie Cummings

Directed by Alex Harvey and Charlotte Mooney, with choreography by Nathan Johnston, Tess emerges as a powerful adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel. Performed by the skilled ensemble from Ockham’s Razor and showcased at the Northcott Theatre on Mon 11 Mar 2024, this production presents a tragic yet beautifully crafted tale of power, loss and endurance. The beautiful set, alongside incredible performers, illuminates Hardy’s characters and their stories with stunning clarity.

Tess tells the touching tale of a young woman entangled in a web of love, betrayal, and societal pressures. The ensemble cast, with their impressive athleticism and expressive skills, bring to life the themes of power, loss and resilience on stage. Through clever use of props like wooden planks and ropes, they create varied landscapes and imitate scenes of Tess’ world, moving with fluidity and precision. The music throughout the play is perfectly suited to each scene, with the dance party scene standing out as particularly enjoyable.

The storytelling in Tess is truly captivating, featuring a seamless transformation of the stage and props that smoothly transition from one scene to another, highlighting the production’s artistic vision. The ensemble’s choreographed movements across the stage are complimented by impressive floor work and well-executed projections, providing a dynamic portrayal of Tess’ physical journey through the village landscapes.

The adaptation explores themes such as female relationships, consent, privilege, and poverty, seamlessly integrating ropes, wooden planks, and digital projections to set the perfect ambiance. The performers skilfully navigate the environment, expressing the intricate emotional depth of the play through expressive and physically demanding movements.

Tess production photo: 4 performers dressed in simple linen outfits stack on top of one another in an towering piggy-back; all are grinning, apart from the performer at the base, who is grimacing.
Photo by Kie Cummings
Tess production photo: a performer in a white, full-skirted dress with long, dark hair sits astride a horse made from cloth and looks at a swirling blue galaxy, projected above her.
Photo by Kie Cummings

The interplay of humour and tragedy in Tess enriched the viewing experience. While the narrative primarily explores themes of loss and resilience, moments of humour provide brief respites from the intensity of Tess’ story. However, it is the central portrayal of Tess grappling with societal and personal challenges that leaves a lasting impression.

The closing scenes of Tess left me feeling both heavy-hearted and utterly captivated, transported back in time by the seamless storytelling of the performers and design.

The production showcases the remarkable ability of circus arts to convey complex narratives, blending literature and physical performance in a deeply moving experience.

Final Thoughts

Tess is indeed a must-watch for anyone passionate about literature, dance, or circus. Its unique approach to storytelling results in a theatregoing experience that is not only heartbreakingly tragic, but also visually stunning. Don’t miss the chance to witness this spectacular adaptation!


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