REVIEW: Cadfael, The Virgin in the Ice

Gareth Thomas as Cadfael in The Virgin in the Ice
Gareth Thomas as Cadfael in The Virgin in the Ice
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CADFAEL, Ellis Peters’ mediaeval sleuth, comes to the stage for the first time in Middle Ground Theatre Company’s production, The Virgin in the Ice.

The company is celebrating 25 years on stage with the world première stage adaption of a Cadfael novel.

It comes to the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, this week and opened last night (Tuesday).

Every effort had been made to draw us into the snowy winter of 1139, as civil war rages, but sometimes the special effects took over the action on stage and left vital words lost.

The tale is actually quite violent, featuring rape and vicious attacks, though what would have been a great fight scene was pretty much left to the imagination.

Middle Ground Theatre has created lavish settings and bespoke music, laced with film projections to fill in some of the storyline.

All these aspects, combined with the need for almost constant scene changes, indicate the difficulties faced when bringing such a story to the stage.

The cast is vast – 15 in total – but many are needed to trundle trees on and off stage, and indeed around it, as the action flows from manor to priory, town to castle.

The snow and gales were so effective it made one feel positively chilly, but the sounds of the crackling fire were so loud it was not always easy to hear the lines spoken over them.

Nevertheless, I was gripped from start to finish and the twists at the end certainly surprised me.

The acting was first-class, particularly from Gareth Thomas in the title role and George Telfer as the battered Brother Elyas.

For a piece of theatre that is unlike any other I’ve seen, it’s worth going for that alone.

The Virgin in the Ice runs until Saturday, March 30, at 7.30pm daily, with a 2pm matinée today (Wednesday) and Saturday. Visit www.worthingtheatres.co.uk or call 01903 206206.