Ashton Farm Barn, Martinstown

Right in the centre of Hardy country - that was the venue for this production which took place in a spacious and sturdy barn where milkmaids plied their trade and the rich Dorset accents of the farming folk were just perfect for the occasion.

Hardy’s short story of spooky witchcraft goings-on was splendidly performed by a large cast of the New Hardy Players accompanied by the Tatterdemalion musicians led by Alastair Simpson, who kept the rustic atmosphere going throughout with their traditional melodies sensitively played during the action.

When Farmer Lodge brings home a young bride, jealously rears its head among the milkmaids and pretty soon, the lovely Gertrude develops a strange and painful rash on her right arm. When doctors fail to cure her, she turns to witchcraft that is seriously scary and things start to get out of hand.

Martin Stephen and Amelia Chorley are in good form as the farmer and his wife while Emma Hill and Dominic Nugent excellently take leading roles as the envious milkmaid and her young son, while Brian Caddy as Conjuror Trendle gets a top score as he skilfully breaks an egg and separates the white into a small glass, no mean feat in front of an audience watching every move.

Adapted by Sue Worth with additional material by Tim Laycock, the production is short but sweet and concluded with food and country dancing, the perfect conclusion to an evening in such good company.

There is a further performance tonight at 7.30pm and tomorrow at 2.30pm at the same venue after which it moves on to Briantspuddle Village Hall on Saturday November 4 at 7.30pm. Don’t miss it.