Emma - adaptation by Doon Mackichan & Martin Millar

Date 19th October 2019
Society Woodchurch Players
Venue Woodchurch Memorial Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Emily Perrian

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

A particularly delightful adaptation of Jane Austen’s book Emma, directed by equally delightful young Emily Perrian. Based on the novel, the central character is wealthy Miss Emma Woodhouse,  self-appointed matchmaker with good intentions, to all surrounding her. After several blunders she finds herself falling in love and marrying Mr Knightley – her mentor, neighbour and friend.  Jane Austen has completed the book and her four young nieces act it out with their aunt’s assistance, with Jane taking on the role of Mr Knightley. The nieces take on all the roles, with exception of Emma and the two young men of romantic interest.

A cast of eight young passionate performers gave us a variety of well-known characters interchanging so very well, using a costume addition contained in the set chest, acting out the roles and returning to their original character with ease. The four girls giggled and spoke unison rhymes, used great asides and facial expressions, moved naturally and spoke the writer’s words beautifully – every word was audible.

Emily used the stage space creatively; the light-footed gentle dance movements were elegant and the incidental music perfect with the pleasing addition of two singing accompaniments from Emily. Minimal stage setting throughout using blacks leaving a well-lit light background worked very well with the nieces sitting on pine chairs in a central line, moving when appropriate a table for occasions.  A chest containing costumes props was set with a table and chair set front stage for Jane to read her novel or repose.  The use of the table with small stand to depict a piano worked very well indeed. Costuming was simple but significant to each character – just the addition of a scarf, a bonnet, a cap, boa, stole, or straw hat, was enough to indicate the character and was all overseen by Ann Tiplady, Karren Stevens and Susan Turvey. I liked the white leggings for the four girls and the modern footwear worked.  Sound and lighting as always interestingly designed and operated by enthusiastic resident techies Tim Nolan and Eliot Gannon.

The script was well polished.  Elena Lacy as Emma the central figure, was dressed in a regency style blue frock, with immaculately dressed hair and played her first lead role eloquently with a convincing amount of humour as well as doubt, with a happy conclusion. Another family Perrian member, Hattie  became ‘poor’ Miss  Harriet Smith with her box of treasures including a sticking plaster! Leigh-Ann Perrian was SM.  Maddy George gave a performance with an air of authority as Jane Austen and quickly transformed by the addition of a tweed jacket to the character of Mr Knightley.  Isobelle Stevens was niece number 2, took the more serious role of pale Miss Jane Fairfax, supposedly to become a governess, who secretly marries Mr Churchill! Kaylyn Van Wyk,  played not only niece number 3 but Mrs Weston in her pink bonnet and the pompous Mrs Elton. Cheeky Niece number 1 and the character of compulsive talker Miss Bates – particularly about her mother’s spectacles, was ably played by blond Tatjana Burr. Newcomer Conor McBride entered with stature through the auditorium as waist coated dashing Frank Churchill – a bit of a bounder, whilst prior to this appeared as the shy – lower socially positioned farmer Robert Martin. Lastly, Aaron Durant enjoyed himself transforming from Mr Elton into Mr Woodhouse -  great piece of business with the roast pork and wearing a long brown skirt Mrs Coles entertaining guest at a dinner party. Excellent miming with just a few props. Some good comedy moments – the entry of the gypsies. Intrigue – Miss Fairfax and Mr Churchill are secretly engaged and marry with the conclusion of matchmaker Emma being asked by Mr  Knightley if he has a chance?  He must have, for the finale was a wedding and the whole cast danced and threw confetti out front. A well-formed production.