A DANCE AROUND AUSTEN’S LEGACY
The e-book is thought and beloved sufficient: Jane Austen’s first full novel, written with satirical youthful wit however lengthy laid apart unpublished. It gleefully reveals how a lady’s daft gothic romanticism comes up humiliatingly in opposition to the real-world evils of sophistication , cash and class. Love triumphs, with a hero unromantic sufficient to know that muslin frays within the wash. A basic acquainted sufficient to be performed with, billed as as ‘impressed by” and subverted a bit for contemporary attitudes by Zoe Cooper . So below director Tessa Walker here’s a three-hander lark, with a lot nifty work with hats and coats, dad and mom and family members mischievously cross-cast, and a bittersweet tackle pleased ever after.
Before the lights are down Rebecca Banatval as Catharine bounces on ,all sprigged muslin and bonnet to inform her story , beginning together with her delivery right into a painfully odd and unromantic Northern vicarage and the second her play-fighting with brothers ends with a primary interval and a sinking into romantic novels and resentment at a Georgian lady’s lot. It is vigorous, with fellow-players Sam Newton and AK Golding taking part in everybody else – Parents, little brother, midwife , then the Allens, all three Tilneys, the venal faux-friend Isabella and the appalling John Thorpe. They swap round with vaudeville nimbleness all through :solely Banatvala stays herself as Catherine practically on a regular basis: and really beguiling she is within the wannabe heroine’s energetic simplicity and delicate self-mocking delusions.
As the scene switches to Bath society Newton is good as each Tilney and the hooray-Henry coxcomb Thorpe, with joyful tangling with carriage reins and a few actually humorous Georgian country-dance conversations: that significantly catches the awkwardness of communication whereas assembly and separating down traces in a crowded ballroom (“I am not dancing anyone” pants Catherine “I am dancing NEAR many people”). All enjoyable, although I could have breached a sigh of resignation as, with the primary half ending, the erotic adoration switches to being between Isabella and Catherine. Here we go once more, my internal cynic sighed, one other basic forcibly lesbianised and degendered for the Pronoun People…
But truthful sufficient, gothic fiction and some Austen passages do provide sufficient girlish sweetest-dearest-friendships for such nuances to be permissible, even when right here a bit creaky. And as we transfer on to the Abbe – , an endearing dollshouse prop whisked out of the numerous trunks and packing containers which have been the varied units – we get the required creaks and shrieks and haze and Gothic nonsense and the stiffness of General Tilney (although Cooper mysteriously makes his daughter fairly creepy, fairly than simply downtrodden). Isabella reappears, to utter the central message younger Miss Austen brings us: that “we cannot escape the world and how it works”. And Newton’s last speech as Henry is surprisingly, oddly transferring in its realism : there isn’t a thriller, no tragedy, no nice romance, however flawed individuals and their sadnesses. And Catharine turns into neither romantic heroine or pleased bride however a author. I like that.
orangtreetheatre.co.uk to 24 feb.