Theatre Review: YEAR OF WONDERS – The Lowry, Salford

YEAR OF WONDERS is a captivating tale of a tiny village stricken by Bubonic Plague in the mid-1600’s

Based on the 2001 novel by Geraldine Brooks, YEAR OF WONDERS tells the story of a housemaid named Anna Frith who must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love when an infected bolt of cloth carries plague to an isolated village. 

Adapted for the stage by Jane Arnfield and Mike Alfreds, who have previously worked together on THE TIN RING, YEARS OF WONDERS takes direct extracts from Brooks’ novel, expertly condensing it to an hour and fifteen-minute performance with sensitivity and skill. Brooks’ beautiful, flowing language is ever present here and is enhanced by Jane Arnfield’s performance as Anna, who tells the story alone as a monologue.

Arnfield is a wonderful, expressive storyteller and doesn’t seem to struggle with the lengthy prose, telling the tale as if it were her own. She gives the character a mature energy, which, given everything that has happened to her, seems appropriate. However, her delivery occasionally seems rushed, especially during some of the more emotional parts of the story and you almost feel that a moment of silence, rather than words, could tell the story more effectively.

The story, however, is an interesting and engaging one, with accurate portrayals of medicine and surgery during the time, as well as providing an interesting look into the role of women. The women in this story are certainly the heroes, with Anna growing into a strong and intelligent leader by the conclusion. It is exciting to watch her find her feet without men, in a world where everything seems to be dying around her. She is forced to take on the role of midwife, when the nurses in the town fall under the plague, and eventually becomes something of an emblem of hope for the village.

Overall, YEAR OF WONDERS is an interesting and engaging story, with an impressive performance from Arnfield. A must for any fans of historical literature, or even theatregoers wanting to learn more about the time period.

4 out of 5 stars

YEAR OF WONDERS runs at The Lowry, Salford until 23 June 2018.