Silas Marner

Book and lyrics by Rosemary Bailey, with additional material by Chris Elphinstone; music by Philip Panico and Barry Robinson
Customs House, South Shields

There are certain things that put a delicious cherry on top of life: an Alan Shearer hat-trick, for instance, or listening to The Clash or Mozart. This musical adaptation of the wonderful Silas Marner is a big, fat, juicy cherry.

Not a lavish production like the famous musicals, Silas Marner – set in the 18th century - has a backdrop of a few painted wall panels and an oil painting, plus a wooden loom on stage, but it is every bit as awesome in its own way.

Betrayed by his best friend and rejected by his fiancée, Silas, a weaver, opts for a life of solitude and accruing money he has no real need for. One day his savings are stolen but an orphaned child later appears on his doorstep, which he deems is recompense for the ills he has suffered in life. The bond between Silas and his adopted daughter Eppie is unbreakable, taking us through some heartwarming and heartbreaking moments along the way.

All 14 of the cast were excellent, with the leads Dennis Jobling (Silas), Angela Szalay (Dolly), Darren Palmer (Davey) and Gordon Mounsey (storyteller) giving outstanding performances.

To take a classic story and interpret it as enthrallingly as this is no easy task. All credit to writer Rosemary Bailey and director Chris Elphinstone. While the music by Philip Panico and Barry Robinson is unashamedly of the Les Miserables mould, all of the songs are melodic and totally complement the story.

Criticisms? Of course. I sat with a drink at the start of the show but was so captivated by the first half I forgot it, then I spent the interval trying to find out the Newcastle score and the second half drew me in so much I was left with a flat, full pint of beer at the end.

Even if you’ve never shared the traumas of Cathy and Heathcliffe or felt the heartache and joys of Jane Eyre, don’t miss this show.

Silas Marner runs until 1 March.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

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