Sense & Sensibility

Jane Austen, adapted by Laura Turner
Chapterhouse Theatre Company
Lytham Hall

Sense & Sensibility in the grounds of Lytham Hall Credit: Julian Wilde

The opening night of Chapterhouse touring company’s revival of Jane Austen’s classic heart versus head novel, and in Laura Turner’s swiftly-moving adaptation, and the sylvan setting of this outdoor production, everything really was right at home.

But without mic’ing up the cast, and even playing to such an appreciative crowd as here, this can only ever be Essence of Sensibility.

So even the opening chapter, of old man Dashwood’s death, is neatly summarised in a mute prologue while Turner makes use of one or two other silent interludes to move the story along at a pace that might have left the disinherited Dashwood daughters reaching for their smelling salts.

Director Rebecca Gadsby duly respects that this is a comedy of manners. Gemma Marsh sets the style as an especially skittish Margaret, while Helen Fullerton bustles and busybodys herself between the roles of Mrs Dashwood and Mrs Jennings with equal assuredness. Indeed the cast of eight tackle all 20 roles with aplomb, Graham Hill even managing the hapless Ferrars or hopeless Sir John, besides selling programmes at the interval.

Jane Austen had her own fun with the notion of Marianne Dashwood as a ‘fallen woman’ since the character falls over, falls ill and falls for the bounder Willoughby. Anna Simmons falls naturally into the role, while Katy Helps reprises the part of her more upstanding sister Elinor.

George Weightman, Paul Tonkin and Katherine Astbury complete the cast.

It all adds up to cash for the coffers of restoring Lytham Hall, the setting for a summer season of such productions. Good Sense all round.

Reviewer: David Upton