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18 April 2012


Sense & Sensibility
Rosemary Branch Theatre National Tour
Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Wednesday 18th April 2012

A refreshing and far from traditional Austen adaptation graces the Civic stage this week, leaving behind any stuffy sentimentality and instead offering a pacy, character-led look on the tale of the Dashwood sisters.

Dismissing the majority of the outdated Georgian propriety that can make Austen so stifling to a modern audience, this version is left to focus on an engaging exploration of the emotional lives of the young siblings.  A far more interesting and rewarding audience experience than is offered by most Austen adaptations, in any medium.

A fairly minimal yet functional set design allows for scene changes to be integrated into the action, executed stylishly by the actors, keeping the momentum from dropping.  Empty white picture frames are held up to outline poignant moments in the sister's progression and focus the audience with a moment of stillness amid the energetic plot.

Performances are lively and lighthearted, and the script maintains the beauty of Austen's original words without feeling overdone.  Elinor (Bobbi O'Callaghan) and Marianne's (Emma Fenney) innocence and naivety are played with charm and individuality, and the characterisation of each of their suitors is particular and distinctive.  Aunt Jennings' (Lainey Shaw) interfering presence is made wonderfully known each time she drifts on stage - immediate light relief to keep the plot from becoming overly emotional.

With an overall result which may seem superficial to Austen purists, the charm and appeal offered instead makes this an accessible and entertaining piece for a modern audience.

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