Review: Tedeschi and Bell deliver an enrapturing performance of Enoch Arden at the Adelaide Festival Theatre

Enoch Arden is a stirring tale written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1884. It tells the story of three children growing up together in a seaside town and the complicated love triangle between them. Enoch Arden is the rough sailor’s son who wins Annie Lee’s heart over his rival Phillip Ray.

The performance at the Space Theatre begins with a piano performance by renown classical pianist Simon Tedeschi, unconventionally dressed in a “vaguely nautical theme”. Taking his seat at the magnificent Steinway grand piano, he plays some impromptu Shubert followed by an intermezzo Brahms. Tedeschi’s fingers dance across the keys as he inflects passion yet lightness and is a perfect introduction to the Sturm und Drang of the story to follow. The two pieces also complement each other perfectly.

John Bell is a well known Shakespearean actor and enters the stage, bare save for a single chair, to welcoming applause. His role is that of narrator of Enoch Arden, while Tedeschi accompanies the reading with a score by Strauss, written some years after the poem’s release.

The poetic language and the delicate musical treatment instantly transport the audience to a time far gone, a seaside town we can but imagine. The words tumble as we are drawn into the story of the three young protagonists. After a happy marriage between Enoch and Annie, with three children, Enoch ventures on a long voyage, from which it seems that he will never return.

This is an epic tale of love lost, longing, devotion and loyalty, told with passion and warmth. The piano accompaniment was perfect, reminding one of the silent movie era with the music adding a sense of drama and creating a wonderful mood around the words.

This was an enrapturing performance of this classic tale and one that had the audience transfixed. The language and the music combined perfectly to paint a picture far more vivid than one could imagine.

Enoch Arden is part of a national tour, which concluded at the Adelaide Festival Theatre.

The reviewer attended the performance at 1.30pm on Sat July 15. Photo by Marg Hansen.