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Anna of the Five Towns review at New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme – ‘a patchy staging’

Lucy Bromilow in Anna of the Five Towns at New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Photo: Andrew Billington Lucy Bromilow in Anna of the Five Towns at New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Photo: Andrew Billington
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It’s fitting that 150 years after the birth of Stoke-on-Trent’s most famous literary son, Arnold Bennett should have his classic novel Anna of the Five Towns interpreted in a new production staged in the very area in which it’s set.

This literary homecoming, while a popular choice, is not without its flaws. The Potteries accent adopted by some of the cast is decidedly hit and miss, with only Andrew Price and, naturally enough, local lad Benedict Shaw really hitting the mark as struggling father and son potters Titus and Willie Price.

Robin Simpson’s portrayal of Anna’s cold-hearted father Ephraim is one-dimensional and vocally brutal – his rants are relentless and much of his dialogue gets lost.

In her first major production since graduating, Lucy Bromilow makes a fair stab at the title role but Anna’s stoicism makes her hard to warm to and there is little chemistry between her and the two men who enter her life.

Thank goodness then for Price who excels in three roles, notably that of a fire and brimstone Welsh Revivalist. His humorous presence is a welcome relief to the often gloomy story of miserliness and misery, as are the delightful contributions of Susie Emmett and Molly Roberts as Anna’s new upper-crust friends the Suttons. Similarly, Rosie Abraham, as Anna’s younger sister Agnes, lights up the stage with her exuberance. She’s a total joy and steals the show.

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Patchy staging of a local favourite enlivened by a few strong performances