by Jane Austen adapted by Tim Luscombe.
Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal Tour to 29 November 2012.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 September at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.
Regency roundabout hardly takes to the stage.
Thirty miles west of Bury St Edmunds, in Ipswich, Eastern Angles had a Christmas comedy three years ago based on Jane Austen’s novels. Less than hilarious overall, it had the terrific title Mansfield Park and Ride. It’s just what this runt of the Austen litter deserves, with its vapid heroine, poor little Fanny Price, living with and patronised by rich relatives in their eponymous seat.
Adaptor Tim Luscombe is a skilled director who has done what can be done with telling the story realistically on stage, but it’s much less successful than the freer approach of Patricia Rozema’s 1999 film, which effectively commented on the novel from a modern perspective. Sometimes Luscombe’s plainer approach works, as scenes elide with cinematic fluidity. And, despite doubling by a small cast, each character is clear in the telling, as Luscombe unobtrusively ensures each is identified and the dialogue makes essential motivations and character evidentclear.
Too often, however, there’s the sense of a limited company of actors desperately keeping several character-plates spinning as the adaptation breathily seeks to keep pace with the novel’s action. And there’s little time to give space, or breath, to much in the way of individual incidents.
Seen on stage, it’s clear within ten minutes who Fanny must end up allied with, and the comings and goings, to and fro, the interferences of the evidently shallow and prejudiced, are so many obstacles which simply await clearance on the course to the anticipated conclusion.
Colin Blumenau marshals all this efficiently enough in his production, without disguising the episodic fragmentary structure, and designer Kit Surrey provides a panoply of illustrated cloths around his split-level stage, giving a due sense of period and of the novel’s social world. Performances are generally competent if not deeply-etched or differentiated, though Ffion Jolly keeps the unassertive heroine this side of vapid and injects some spirit when possible, later on.
Still, a near-full audience approved heartily and the show’s off on a tour. It’s just a pity there couldn’t be this response when Bury St Edmunds uses its beautifully restored Regency playhouse to produce real Regency plays.
Tom Bertram/Mr Rushworth/William Price: Geoff Arnold.
Mrs Norris/Mrs Price: Karen Ascoe.
Edmund Bertram/Charles Price: Pete Ashmore.
Mary Crawford/Betsey Price: Kristin Atherton.
Henry Crawford/Tom Price: Samuel Collings.
Sir Thomas Bertram/Mr Price: Richard Heap.
Fanny Price: Ffion Jolly.
Maria Bertram/Susan Price: Leonie Spilbury.
Director: Colin Blumenau.
Designer: Kit Surrey.
Lighting: Josh Carr.
Choreographer: Lee Crowley.
1-6 Oct Mon-Wed 7.30pm; Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm <>Theatre Royal Bath 01225 448844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk
16-20 Oct 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Northcott Theatre Exeter 01392 493493 www.exeternorthcott.co.uk
24-27 Oct 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Haymarket Basingstoke 01256 844244 www.anvilarts.org.uk
13-17 Oct 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne 01212 412000 www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk
20-24 Nov Tue-Thu; Sat 7.30pm Fri u8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Oxford Playhouse 01865 305305 www.oxfordplayhouse.com
27-29 Nov 7.45pm Mat Thu 2pm The Brewhouse Taunton 01823 283244 www.thebrewhouse.net