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Rustic beauty forever lost In The Cane Fields



Review by Emma Whitelaw

THE curse of industrialisation falls upon a small town in Alice de Sousa’s exquisite adaptation of The Heiress of the Cane Fields now showing at Greenwich Playhouse.

An idyllic rural community’s precious way of life is threatened by necessary 19th Century progress. Votes are bought, lives are lost and the land raped. The town is bought to its knees by the greed and corruption of its government.

But amidst the tragedy of a beauty forever lost comes hope as true love triumphs over adversity.

Suffering from an indescribable illness, Henrique de Sousellas, played by Giuliano Crispini, seeks solace in the country.

Having just arrived from Lisbon, he has the entire town talking. It isn’t often that they are visited by a man of such stature (let alone anyone for that matter!) and they welcome him with open arms.

Henrique’s big smoke way of thinking is in stark contrast to the simple life led by the townsfolk. He takes a while to adapt but is soon charmed by the dramatic landscape and enchanted by the beautiful Cristina (Clare Harlow).

Family becomes an integral part of his life and he spends much time with his Aunt Zefa who, in turn, introduces him to 'the heiress of the cane fields', Dona Madalena.

Alice de Sousa is delightful as the heiress. Having been educated in Lisbon herself, she finds Henrique’s gallant antics annoyingly unnecessary and is not afraid to tell him so.

Under her instruction, and with the help of Cristina, they soon mould him into a respectable citizen.

At the same time, a wicked plot to undermine the community’s love of simplicity is underway.

The councillor, played by director, Bruce Jamieson, unveils his plan to destroy his neighbour’s property in order to make way for a 'much needed' road.

Knowing full well this will break the hearts of many, his greed and that of his supporters’ overrides all commonsense and the construction goes ahead.

Various other subplots, such as the local schoolmaster’s hidden love for the Heiress and the visiting missionary who wants the hair cut off all the women, are intricately woven together to form a beautifully complex tale.

The themes are developed carefully through the rich characterisation and evocative dialogue.

Once again, I found the costuming and set design to be impeccable. As too were the lighting and sound. The scenes at Vicente’s property, in particular, were just stunning.

The Greenwich Playhouse never fails to present quality productions and I would argue that The Heiress of The Cane Fields is indeed one of their best yet!

The Heiress of The Cane Fields. Novel by Julio Dinis. Adapted for the stage by Alice de Sousa. Directed by Bruce Jamieson. Starring Adam Robert Brody, Giuliano Crispini, Alice de Sousa, Al Florentini, Christopher Hale, Clare Harlow, Paul Hessey, Jan Hirst, Bruce Jamieson, Kevin Marchant, Audrey McCoy, Robert Paul, Nina Reizi, Fiona Terry and Charlie Vincent. April 5 to May 1 at Greenwich Playhouse, Greenwich Station Forecourt, 189 Greenwich High Road, London SE10 8JA Box Office 020 8858 9256.

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