The Mayor of Casterbridge – 2009

New Hardy Players production 2009

Norrie Woodhall, the last surviving person to have known Thomas Hardy, asked the New Hardy Players to perform ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ because it had never been performed by the original Hardy Players, of which she had been a member.

This adaptation by Devina Symes, portrays this tragic tale in a poignant, profound and humorous way; the latter coming mainly from the local Casterbridge characters, whom Hardy loved.

Although the story begins in 1832, when a drunken 21 year old Michael Henchard, sells his wife, Susan, and daughter, at a fair; the main story unfolds eighteen years later at the time of uncertain harvests, which immediately preceded the repeal of the Corn Laws. During that interim period, Henchard’s desperate desire to make amends and improve himself is achieved when he is made Mayor of Casterbridge, and his wife and daughter return.

With the arrival of the genial Donald Farfae to the town, and the return of Henchard’s old lover, the coquettish Lucetta, a tangled web of deceit and betrayal unfolds. As this gripping tale unravels, it would appear that the volatile Henchard could have reversed his situation many times, but as Hardy himself wrote about his central character: ‘Character is Fate.’

The performance was such a success we performed the play, or exerpts from it over the next two years:

  • 23rd July 2010. Performance at the Lighthouse, Poole on to a sizeable audience.
  • 25th July 2010 By popular demand, and as part of the international Hardy Conference, we performed the playon at the United Church, Dorchester. An international audience enjoyed and appreciated the performance.
  • Sunday 14th August 2011. The New Hardy Players were invited by the BBC to perform the wife-selling scene from The Mayor of Casterbridge as an insert into their Countrywise programme. In the programme, John Craven looks at Hardy Country in some detail. The Players involved went to Weyhill fairground near Andover, which is the site Hardy imagined to be Weydon Fair, and probably visited.

“Devina Symes has created a stage adaptation that even Hardy purists would appreciate. The New Hardy Players have come up trumps with this production.” 

Blackmore Vale Magazine, July 2009

Hardy players thrill the crowds at the Dorchester Borough Gardens: The people of Dorchester gave tremendous support to this event, and many could not believe the high standard of acting. Some were convinced they were watching a professional troupe at work, so good were the performers, and all want them to return to the gardens next year.”
Viewonline, July 2009