Sense and Sensibility
Feb 11th 2012
Last Saturday I spent a pleasant evening at the Customs House in South Shields. I was there to see Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, performed by the Chapterhouse Theatre Company.
I love a bit of period drama so I had been looking for ward to it and was interested to see how the story would work in a stage adaptation. I love the book, and have seen possibly a few too many screen adaptations in recent years, so meeting my expectations might prove a bit of a of a challenge.
It started well setting the scene with the sudden death of Henry Dashwood, and the funeral meeting with the odiously insensitive sister-in-law Fanny, excellently played by Sarah Gain. The various traits of the main characters were quickly established: practical Elinor (Hayley-Marie Axe), dreamy Marianne (Alyssa Burnett) and headstrong Margaret (Maria Lovelady) and the aforementioned Fanny and her long suffering husband (Liam Webster).
The scenery changes were simple and effective between the country house and the cottage: movement of a few pieces to change the scene. Unfortunately once more characters and locations were introduced it did become a little bit confusing. Including the servants there are 23 different characters in the play and at least 2 country homes, a cottage and a London house – all played by 9 actors and one set of scenery! Keeping track of which character was wearing which dress was a little tricky, given the similarity at times of Austen’s characters. That said, the actors certainly gave good performances and in particular Maria Lovelady playing Margaret and Lucy Steele – two very different characters. The change of style was so good that it took me a few minutes to realise it was the same actress playing Lucy!
There were the lovely touches of humour we expect from Austen as well as the heartbreak. By far the best scene was Marianne’s heartbreak after her abandonment by Willoughby.
So the play would have benefited from a couple of extra actors, and maybe the relationship between Colonel Brandon and Marianne could have been developed more, but overall, it was an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
They are on tour across the country throughout February and March, and worth a visit if period dramas are your thing.