This play takes off a few years later in the life of the young Laura, so keenly portrayed by Sophie Trott in the concurrent production of Lark Rise. Life in village of Candleford is much the same and yet the older, wiser Laura is privy to many new secrets while developing an inquiring mind. Candleford is a larger community and as such there is less sense of closeness amongst its inhabitants as in Lark Rise.
Gossip and scandal are never too far away but trust is the valued commodity, which Laura earns. Laura’s boss is the stern but fair Miss Lane, played with understanding and affection by Rosalind Cressy. Possibly stealing the show with her comic timing and garrulous manner is Susie Emmett as her maid Zillah, bringing the house down with her desperate desire to catch up on the latest gossip while bullying the blacksmith’s boys in the bath house.
Physical theatre comes to the fore as we witness the hunt, hysterically portrayed with haughty colonels and lusty ladies tottering around with pans attached to the boots to represent their call to hounds. Again this promenade production takes full account of the mingling audience, whether by delivering a letter or pelting them with snowballs. The cast work easily with their audience, calling them to watch a mummers play or inviting them to join the annual barn dance at the close.
Directors John Terry and Mike Bartlett have created such a world from Lark Rise to Candleford that, after four hours of theatre sweeping by, it is difficult not to think we have known these characters all our lives.