Jane Austen’s Persuasion is rich, detailed and compelling; but was its stage production going to be worth the babysitter and three hours of spinal stress? I made myself comfortable in Margate’s intimate Theatre Royale to find out.
After all, when an American Opera performs in your small town and the producers are kind enough to send you tickets, it would be rude not to oblige!
On their fourth theatre of a whistle-stop tour of the UK, Chamber Opera Chicago – from the windy city naturally – finally made it to Margate with their original adaption of Austen’s much loved and final novel – Persuasion.
Persuasion is a story of love lost and found again! The play starts with Jane Austen, telling her niece and nephew, the story of her latest work. As the story progresses, Jane Austen becomes Anne Elliot, played by Barbara Landis.
The narrative begins with the Elliot family, once the richest, now bankrupt. Sir Walter Elliot and his daughters including Anne are forced to move to a smaller estate. And that is when Captain Wentworth makes an appearance in Anne’s life. Captain Wentworth’s love was once rejected by Anne on insistence from her godmother for not matching up to her then upper class status. Decades later, Captain Wentworth has become a man of fortune, pride and class.
As the narrative progresses, it is supposed that Anne will marry her cousin William Walter Elliot, but the love between Captain Wentworth – played by the director Nick Sandys – and Anne is rekindled and found once again!
The costumes were very well adapted to the era and the design of the set had some wonderful projections. The orchestra was remarkable especially given Theatre Royal is quite tiny for a big opera like this one! Despite a technical glitch in the beginning of the show, the orchestra were confident and made full use of the space.
The bit where I struggled was where the characters struggled to mimic the English accent and at times was going horridly American. I’d rather have it all American or a well trained cast!
Two and half hours for a play is a pretty long time, and sometimes it can be a bit of drag especially when the audience finds bits unnecessary! But what brought some life back into the play was the tap dancers! In an evening party, some sailors managed to do some tap dancing to folk tunes which was refreshing. They got the most applause from a primarily elderly Margate audience.
The production had its funny moments and some dull. Some sang marvellously, especially John Boss who played the character of Sir Walter (great comic timing and remarkable voice projection).
This not for profit troupe are full of excellent talent and ideas. Having said that, the play could have been shorter! I would recommend reading the book – as the book will make you want to go see the play; those unfamiliar with the novel may be less easily converted.