"Unforgettable, historic, docudrama, with love"
by Arthur Duncan for remotegoat on 02/06/10

Of the events near Stonehenge around June 1st 1985, busy author, Shaun McCarthy has thoroughly researched the facts. Tonight, on its nationally forgotten anniversary, his account - without distortions - was justly dramatised in David Lockwood's disturbing, entirely memorable, successful production.

Despite these facts, 'Beanfield' is a true love story and like most such stories, is tragic. The names are fictional; the progress of relationships - buffeted by factual events - imaginative, but 'true-to-life'.

The story begins with Ben Crispin as the alpha male, 'Steamer', directly delivering a prologue, setting the scene with inspiration from Shakespeare's 'Henry V'. And the Bard continues to contribute generously throughout the performance, to good effect. Spotting the quotes adds greater pleasure to following McCarthy's lively dialogue, including relevant speeches quoted from people who were there.

Crispin gives powerful commitment to the role, engaging his hearers with authority yet also, fraternal warmth. 'Steamer' is of today, retelling and re-living his experiences, not only of the 'Battle in the Beanfield' but of how he and others have fared since; separating, re-uniting, and so on. Never less than convincing, Crispin carries the narrative as a father carries his child, held firmly because inestimably valued.

Therein hangs the whole story, the love stories and the tragedies; not mortal but still tragic and yet hopeful, in a philosophical sort of way.

'Steamer' is accompanied by middle-class 'Annie', a role in which Katie Villa excels for her composure and understated desperation as her hopes for finding love and purpose in life are constantly threatened. The quality of Villa's presence enriches the emotional depth of the action, thereby tacitly ennobling the couple's domestic drudgery. After her transformation, Villa's character grows even more holistic, as her suffering intensifies.

Georgie Rennolds makes Diane, the 'due-to-be-politicised' farm-worker, lovably sympathetic and real and (as does Ms Villa beside her) also performs dutifully as police officer and committee-seat occupier. Ben Simpson and Eli Thorne double effectively as Peace-convoy buddies and Officers of Law & supposedly Order, adding spicy varieties of life to a comprehensively scripted play, while not cluttering the stage with excess bodies.

A varied soundscape, with sinister drumbeats, designed and played live by Ben Goldstone, colours the visual scenes and verbal content that Rachael Duthie has lit remarkably well without too many lamps. Lighting for both house and stage is adequate yet limited, enhancing the semi-clandestine atmosphere of the basement venue.

Set design by Philip Wyatt, ingeniously copes with limitations of space and various scenes; windows from old buses and a plethora of odd materials simulate mobile decor. Costumes, appropriate, sought-out, altered or made by Holly Henshaw, range from jumble-sale couture to immaculate professionals, 'tho' on-stage quick changes don't always admit a perfect fit, but this doesn't much detract from the performances.

In August,the play upgrades to Bristol's dynamic Tobacco Factory which can't be a bad move.

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