Sense and Sensibilityadapted by
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Review by Wendy Lewis (playwright) |
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, adapted by Deb Mulhall.
Star of the Sea Theatre, Manly. Sunday 1st July 2012
We start with a death bed scene which puts the women of the Dashwood family in a precarious and vulnerable position. Such is the problem of entailment, as explained by Miss Elinor Dashwood. Only the eldest male child inherits Ė others in the family must rely on the good will of their older sibling. Thus the story unfolds: one sister ruled by her heart, one by her head. And three suitors each with an incident in their past that continues to haunt them. Welcome to Austenís world where marriage is a womanís only option and love is rarely considered apart from the realities of money, social standing and family connections.
Itís a fine and well-cast ensemble. Elinor is beautifully controlled with quiet dignity and propriety throughout. She speaks with eloquence and gentleness and it is heartbreaking to see her unhappiness mirrored in her eyes. Yet she is unwilling to express her sorrow because of her sense of womanly duty. By contrast, Marianne is a bundle of energy and youthful exuberance, delightful one minute, churlish the next. She moves from an indiscreet young thing to a more measured young lady with an expository soliloquy and a feverish death bed scene in between Ė what an emotional journey and so wonderful to watch!
Like the sisters, the three men of the story are similarly adept at revealing their distinctive personalities. The Colonel is a master of self-control, hiding his genuine compassion and generosity until he sees fit to reveal his true self to Elinor. And then before our eyes, he Ďunthawsí, losing his rigidity and becoming a warm man. Who could fail to fall madly in love with Willoughby, the life of the party, so entertaining and so attentive to the young Marianne? But he has chosen wealth over true love, only to break down with convincing remorse at his past indiscretion and present predicament. Edward is a likeable sort with a twinkle in his eye that warms Elinorís heart. He plays the part of a gentle, kind and companionable type most excellently, yet even he is trapped because he must be true to his word. In contrast with these emotional complexities, Sir John and Mrs Jennings (inspired casting!) come blustering on, energising the stage with their boundless enthusiasm. Simple, raucous, and utterly in love with life, they are hilarious and quite exhausting to watch! Widow Dashwood is suitably demure, loving and gentle; Lucy is suitably beguiling and scheming. The only couple that seem a little unreal are John and Fanny, she a little too evil and witch-like; he a little too simpering and playing for laughs. Of course, we all have our favourite Austen heroines and heroes and itís a daunting task to take on something so well known via film and countless BBC series. Congratulations to all for working so well together, showing us joy and despair and bringing to life the wit and wisdom of this charming adaptation. Youíre sure to come out of the theatre with a big smile on your face, inspired to curl up on a brisk winterís afternoon and revisit a favourite Austen classic. W. Lewis (theatre blog)
|Sense and Sensibility   photographed by John Reeves|