Sydney review - Persuasion: A very entertaining and professional show
By Jane Austen
Adaptation by Tim Luscombe
Directed by Trudie Ritchie
An Amateur Production by arrangement with ORiGiN Theatrical on behalf of Samuel French
The Genesian Theatre Company
415-431 Kent Street
Season: 29 June – 17 August. Running Time: 2hrs 15mins, including a 20 min interval Bookings: www.genesiantheatre.com.au
In the opening scene of Persuasion there is a dramatic sea battle taking place, as Captain Frederick Wentworth commands one of His Majesty’s ships to victory. This secures him another hefty bonus to add to his accumulating wealth.
As the war between France and Britain comes to an end in 1815, Captain Wentworth finds he has almost everything: money, rank, good looks. Now back on land, he makes it known in his social circles that he is ready to settle down in marriage. That is, of course, if he can find the right woman!
Captain Wentworth had indeed found love once, 7 years beforehand. He had proposed marriage to a beautiful and clever lass named Anne Elliot. Alas, she called off the engagement after accepting well-intentioned advice from her deceased mother’s friend Lady Russell, citing Anne’s youth and Frederick’s low status and financial means. Ah, the power of persuasion!
With a lot of water under the bridge, the fortunes of Anne and Frederick are now almost reversed. Anne’s father, Sir Walter Elliot has had to move his family down-market to Bath whilst leasing his grand mansion to Admiral Croft and Mrs Croft, whose brother is Frederick Wentworth . Anne and Frederick’s paths inevitably cross and their love slowly manifests itself again.
Tim Luscombe’s writing of Jane Austen’s plot is fabulous and really captures the emotions of the key players as they manoeuvre through the many obstacles in their way.
Persuasion is the last book written by Jane Austen. In this stage adaptation by Tim Luscombe, all the colourful characters come to life, set against the stifling class system of early nineteenth century England. It’s an intriguing web of the aristocracy trying to retain their wealth, social climbers hoping to marry into wealth and other poor sods unable to retain any wealth.
Among all this is the noble hope that young women can marry based on love. Preposterous idea I know, but one that consumes the daily thoughts of the leading female characters.
The cast were all fresh-faced and exuberant. Playing Anne Elliot was Rose Trelour. Her initial shy demeanour soon bloomed into a confident and assertive woman as she realised her opportunity for real love had a second chance. Relying on her feelings she declares “I only have my intuition to account for my distrust”. Kendal Drury as the charming Frederick Wentworth delivered as the perfect officer and gentleman.
Charlotte Robertson played the demure Louisa Musgrove, whose girlish infatuation with Wentworth caused her some grief. Angela Johnston gave a very animated portrayal of Mary Musgrove and had some excellent humorous moments.
Vitas Varnas shone in his dual role as William Elliot and Mr Harville. This gave him the chance to play two characters with opposite qualities. Also impressive was Tom Massey as Sir Walter Elliot. Accustomed to privilege, he must adapt to a lower social standing. Tom’s jolly manner evoked some sympathy to the characters plight.
Also well-cast were these fine performers: Nick Fitzsimmons as Charles Musgrove, Natasha McDonald as Elizabeth Elliot/Mrs Harville, Elias Parker as Mr Benwick, Jodie Sibley as Lady Russell, Catherine Waters as Mrs Clay/Mrs Croft and Rod Stewart as Admiral Croft.
The Director Trudie Ritchie managed to extract the best from cast and crew. She had many characters to move about and multiple scene changes which all occurred seamlessly. The set was simple but adaptable. Lighting and sound effects (Mehran Mortezaei) were crucial in scene changes. I liked the harpsicord sound. The period costumes (Susan Carveth) were brilliant and breathed a lot of vibrancy into the production.
Although Persuasion depicts an era from 200 years ago, its message about love, opportunity, regret and hope is timeless. A very entertaining and professional show.