Sense & Sensibility

Date 6th May 2022
Society Viva Theatre Company
Venue The Viva Theatre, Soham
Type of Production Play
Director Mary Barnes
Musical Director N/A
Choreographer N/A
Producer Sarah Shorney
Written By Jane Austen adapted for the stage by Kate Hamill

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Author: Julie Petrucci

Kate Hamill’s Sense and Sensibility is a fresh, comic adaptation of Jane Austen's romance novel which premiered in 2014. The story follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of the Dashwood sisters — level-headed Elinor and passionate, impetuous Marianne – after their father's sudden death leaves them financially destitute and tossed into a world swirling with the social pressures of class, money, and reputation. Mix in a few dashing love interests and a gaggle of gossipy socialites for an energetic romp through the 18th-century England. 

Kate Hamill’s adaptation is full of humour and Director Mary Barnes ensured every ounce was wrung out of it.  The sixteen-strong cast did a sterling job.  Several of them played dual roles, three even dressing as women (complete with beards) when the need arose.  However, apart from acting well, they also gossiped away whilst executing some very neat and well-choreographed set changes.  

Very often with a large cast play the ‘leads’ shine and everyone else does their bit.  They all shone in this cast.  Thought and attention had gone into each characterisation and it showed, even when having three or four very minor roles plus costume changes as Oliver Squires did. It was obvious each character was thought out and, as in the case of the French Maid, had its  brief moment.  

In a well-controlled performance Donna Kitching wonderfully underplayed Elinor Dashwood’s hidden emotions which was a perfect contrast to the heart on the sleeve emotional performance of Maddie Palmer as Marianne Dashwood.  Superb performances from both actresses.  

Aidan Bayford showed his feel for the comedic with dual performances as the two brothers Edward and Robert Ferrars.  His stammering efforts as Edward to woo Elinor were funny but Robert’s brief appearance extolling the virtues of a cott-arge was something else!  Bayford, together with the two other suitors Scott Robertson (Colonel Brandon) and Joseph Hall (John Willoughby) gave first-class performances.  I could go on but there would be a long list because, as previously stated, all of this highly skilled cast did a splendid job. 

The staging was simple and easily moveable which as the play is fast moving was a necessity.   The lighting was very good as were the sound effects. The only fly in the ointment was the often crackly body-mics.  Costumes were nicely in period although, I think, ladies making visits to ladies in those days would have worn gloves. Wigs and hairstyles were good particularly the enormous wigs for Lady Middleton and Mrs Ferrars.

I have never been a Jane Austen fan but I really enjoyed this fun adaptation of Sense & Sensibility.  Congratulations to Director Mary Barnes, her wonderful cast and production team.  Thank you for a very enjoyable evening