A classic performance

Sense & Sensibility - Lytham Hall, Lytham

Saturday, 21st June 2014, 7:00 am
Sense & Sensibility
Sense & Sensibility

Lytham Hall rolled back the years to host more than 400 ‘house guests’ for a Georgian entertainment on the lawns.

Waxed jackets and stout shoes may have taken the place of crinolines and tailcoats but the sylvan setting of the mansion grounds yet again proved the perfect backdrop for the first of the hall’s season of outdoor productions.

It was also 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 everything really was right at home.

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In an outdoor setting, 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 busybodies 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.

David Upton