LADY ANNA: ALL AT SEA
by Craig Baxter inspired by Anthony Trollope.
Park Theatre (Park 200) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park N4 3JP To 19 September 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS:020 7870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 August.
Lively novel adaptation and insight into the author’s way of working.
There are several reasons not to go and watch a filleted staging of a lesser-known novel by popular Victorian writer Anthony Trollope. None of them should keep people from Craig Baxter’s intriguing adaptation. Baxter summarises a good deal of the novel in a few scattered statements, leaving room to tell the essential story of Lady Anna.
It deals with complexities of law and inheritance which mainly serve to single-out the choice between love and wealth in marriage. Matters grow serious as Anna comes under increasing family pressure to marry an Earl rather than the Keswick tailor who, with his father, spent all their money supporting Anna in her impoverished youth.
Trollope’s reputation partly rests on his Political (or Palliser) novels and, writing in the early 1870s, he sets this one 40 years earlier at the time of the reform Act. The tailor, Thwaite, is a radical and opponent of aristocracy (reputedly, early Communist meetings included a disproportionate number of tailors).
A series of short scenes tells the story pacily without ever seeming unduly hasty. Largely because, from the start, Baxter keeps stepping out of Trollope’s fictional world to present the author and his family on the Australian voyage they were taking at the time.
It provides parallels; as Mrs Trollope Caroline Langrishe objects to her maid Isabella reading Trollope’s manuscript, just as Mrs Lovel insists Anna reject the low-born tailor. Both Antonia Kinsley’s characters determinedly decide their own futures.
Even more, fiction’s grip on the imagination is examined as Baxter inserts comments on starting a novel – in the manner that’s just been shown – and fellow-passengers speculate on how it will end and what sort of marriage the public will stand for.
Amid this is the bluff, forgetful author who, Tim Frances makes clear in an enjoyably cheerful performance, regards writing as a job, filling the regulation number of pages before enjoying the rest of the day, accepting a bet on how much money this one will make.
Libby Watson’s set piles books around the stage, aptly for this prolific novelist, and Colin Blumenau’s production carries matters forward with brisk clarity.
Anthony Trollope/Sir William Patterson/Thomas Thwaite: Tim Frances.
Mr Flick/Rector/Dullard: Edward Halsted.
Lady Anna/Isabella: Antonia Kinsley.
Countess Lovel/Rose Trollope: Caroline Langrishe.
Daniel Thwaite/Bore/Anna’s Maid: Will Rastall.
Frederic/Pedant: Adam Scott-Rowley.
Aunt Jane/Lady Fitzwarren: Julie Teal.
Director: Colin Blumenau.
Designer: Libby Watson.
Lighting: Matt Leventhall.
Choreographer: Claire Cassidy.