Sunday, April 29, 2012


Rosemary Branch Theatre
at the Civic, Chelmsford

Helen Tennison's production is admirably stylish, with ecru drapes and muted beige and off-white frocks, and striking use of picture frames to focus our attention [designer Ellan Parry].
This two-hour version – first done for the much-missed SNAP – by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham focuses on the love lives of the Dashwood girls, losing much of the context and many of the characters along the way.

We're left with a largely frivolous rom-com, though fortunately the director's skill, and some fine performances, keep us entertained from funeral to weddings.
James Burton worked hard in the double role of boring Brandon and awkward Edward, and was endearing and amusing in both. The cad Willoughby, somewhat underpowered here, was Jason Eddy.
The monstrous Aunt Jennings – a gift of a role – was skilfully done by Lainey Shaw, with just the right blend of grotesque and generosity. The surviving Miss Steele, was nicely portrayed by Francesca Wilding, using her bonnet to excellent effect.
Emma Fenney's Elinor engaged our sympathy, but Bobbi O'Callaghan was too brash as her flighty sister, too loud [as her aunt might point out, it is not done to be heard in the street …].

But much pleasure was to be had from the linen line, the original music by Benedict Davies, and masterly stage effects like Marianne's fevered dream, her embracing the elements and falling into Willoughby's arms, and Edward's delicious discomfiture on finding his beloved en tête-à-tête with his betrothed.

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