Sense & Sensibility. By Kate Hamill, adapted from the novel by Jane Austen. Directed by Geordie Brookman. State Theatre Company of South Australia. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. Until June 2. Bookings: canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 62752700.
Like a rich gateau, Kate Hamill’s ebullient adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility offers audiences a theatrical taste sensation to delight the palate, tantalise the taste buds and tempt the savouring of every scrumptious morsel of this deliciously presented production by the State Theatre Company of South Australia.
Some, who prefer the simple elegance and wit of the reader’s joy in Jane Austen’s biting and unveiling commentary on the foibles of Regency England, may be perplexed by the sumptuous affectation of actors on roller skates, cross dressing and rave party cavorting. Director Geordie Brookman and his ensemble crank up the theatrical revs to pump the adrenalin into Austen's swipe at status, class, money and the fragile affairs of the
The story of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor (Anna Steen), Marianne (Miranda Daughtrey) and younger high-spirited Margaret (Rachel Burke) and their mother (Caroline Mignone) resonates with contemporary and alarming relevance. The Dashwood women are disempowered by the death of their husband and father, who leaves his estate to his son and the son's new wife, Fanny (Lizzy Falkland). With no secure financial means and clearly unwelcome in their former family home, they are forced to move into a small Devonshire cottage and rely on independent suitors with substantial means to support them. It is the single woman who remains a social victim, confined by dependency and society’s expectation.
Eldest sister Elinor, practical, intelligent and sensible, longs for the affections of meek and reserved Edward Ferrars (performed with admirable restraint and sensitivity by Nathan O’Keefe). Marianne, flighty and ruled by the heart’s sensibility is infatuated with the unprincipled Captain Willoughby (Rashidi Edward) and ignores the approaches of the loyal and unassuming Colonel Brandon (Dale March). Suffice to say that all’s well that ends well in a triumphant dance to What I Like About You.
The sheer vivacity of Brookman’s production delights the eye as soon as the curtain rises on Ailsa Paterson’s box set design of a Regency estate interior bathed in lighting designer Geoff Cobham’s lavender hue.
Members of the ensemble slide chairs across the stage, wheel a bed from the walls and change characters in a constant parade of playful stage action. Steen and Daughtrey give shining performances as Elinor and Marianne, the empathetic fulcrum to a spinning sequence of events and surprises. Hamill introduces a chorus of ostrich-plumed gossips to echo society’s intrusion into the lives of others.
It is in the scenes with Elinor and Marianne that the production discovers the essence of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. The rest is icing on the cake, played with entertaining verve and fun-filled frolic by a versatile and flamboyant ensemble. Hamill injects fuel-boosted pertinence to Austen’s astute, affectionate, bitter and biting social comment.
In State Theatre Company of South Australia’s Moliere-meets-Oscar-Wilde production of Hamill’s adaptation,
Brookman, cast and creatives have served up a feast of laughter, tears and sparkling wit. Would Jane Austen have approved? I suspect so. This is a show with heart, pumping new life into Austen’s novel that still stands the test of time. Highly recommended.
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