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Tess is a different take of Thomas Hardy’s classic, Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Performers weave together Hardy’s words with the physicality of circus in this tale of power, loss and endurance.

The staging evokes the vast landscapes using projections, wooden planks, shifting walls and ropes and linen.

Recommended age: 12+


Ockham’s Razor present Tess, a feminist vision of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel

Ockham’s Razor, the UK’s foremost circus theatre company, presents a bold new vision of Hardy’s classic novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Touring the UK from October 2023 to April 2024, Tess uses the original text combined with the physical language of circus, allowing the performers to retell the well-known story of power, loss and endurance through a feminist lens. Hardy’s classic novel still has extraordinary relevance for contemporary audiences as it explores questions of privilege, class, consent, agency, female desire and sisterhood.

Tess features an ensemble of circus performers from diverse backgrounds, five women and two men. The cast includes a female actress and a female circus performer who both portray the character Tess. The company has a long experience of working with reframing the female body with circus, looking at strength, capability and agency. Tess weaves together acrobatics, aerial, dance, physical theatre and the distinctive simple, evocative design of Ockham’s Razor to create Hardy’s world.

Tess is Ockham’s Razor’s first production based on a novel, the script has been written by Ockham’s Razor using Hardy’s own words, with advice from Anne Marie Casey, an acclaimed novelist and screenwriter who has previously adapted Little Women and Wuthering Heights for the stage. It captures the poetry of Hardy and the philosophical depth of the novel, interweaving Ockham’s Razor’s signature physical storytelling to tell this gut-wrenching story about the strength to endure. The cast of world-class circus performers use their strength and circus language to evoke the physical labour of the novel. They will create Hardy’s Wessex onstage, wielding wooden planks, shifting walls, ropes and swathes of linen to make sets that unfold and which the cast balance upon, climb, carry and construct.

Directors Alex Harvey and Charlotte Mooney comment, Tess of the D’Urbervilles has been adapted before for TV and film but it always struck us that the poetry of the book, the radical nature of it and the strength and heroism of Tess was often lost in translation. Over time we became increasingly convinced that circus, and all the physicality of it, would be the perfect medium for capturing all the many elements of the novel. One of the surprises in the creation of Tess is how much joy and humour there is to find in the novel and the staging. There is a seam of joy in there which is captured by the play and collaboration of the ensemble 

Ockham’s Razor

Ockham’s Razor is an award-winning circus theatre company at the forefront of the movement re-defining circus. They consistently produce ground-breaking, artistically excellent work. Since their foundation in 2004, Ockham’s Razor have created, to critical and public acclaim, a distinct style of performance which draws upon the relationships, emotions, and images of circus to create innovative theatre with coherent narratives and moving stories. Since 2008 Ockham’s Razor have been supported by Turtle Key Arts in production, financial management, marketing and administration.

Turtle Key Arts

Turtle Key Arts is a performance arts production company, a registered charity which produces, manages and devises performance arts projects with a particular emphasis on original and ground-breaking work. Ockham’s Razor and Turtle Key Arts have mounted numerous hugely successful national and international tours and have a strong track record in delivering new productions to sell out audiences.



14 November – 15 November 2023

Malvern Theatres


Malvern Theatres

WR14 3HB

01684 892277

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