Northanger Abbey – October 2007

8/10

Adapted by Tim Luscombe from the novel by Jane Austen

Directed by: Tim Luscombe

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 26th October 2007

We were treated tonight to some very good performances in a fun adaptation of Northanger Abbey, which brought out much of the humour of the novel. This was all the more remarkable as the actress originally playing Catherine Morland, Jenni Maitland, was stricken yesterday afternoon. Her part was taken by Helen Bradbury, who had been playing Emily and Eleanor, while those roles were played by Emma Hamilton, in her spare moments when she wasn’t on stage as Isabella Thorpe. Minor roles were passed to someone else, presumably the ASM, and the two actresses had scripts to help them through the unfamiliar bits. Who cares! They did an excellent job, regardless of circumstances, and I hope this boosts their careers. All the other actors were also excellent, I should add.

The set was a row of eight doors, which were opened in different combinations to give a host of scenes. There was also a series of gothic arches which appeared from behind a screen or curtain above the doors, to give us the sense of the Abbey itself. Apart from this, one or two occasional chairs, and a mysterious trunk, the set was wonderfully bare, and lighting and acting were all that was needed to engage our imagination and emotions.

I realised as we went on that I remembered more of the story than I had thought. The missed appointment to walk with Henry Tilney and his sister, the attempts by the scurrilous John Thorpe to win Catherine (and her presumed fortune) for himself, the dark imaginings in Northanger Abbey, were all eventually resolved thanks largely to Henry Tilney’s uncommon good sense and suspiciously perfect nature. I enjoyed it all, and especially the way that parts of The Mysteries of Udolpho were interwoven with the narrative, pointing up the similarities and also the differences, as when high melodrama was brought down to earth by prosaic trivialities.

This was good fun all round, and a good adaptation. I hope we’ll see others attempt it in the future, but in the meantime I wish good luck to this company.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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