The Review - THEATRE by SARA NEWMAN Published:19 July 2007
Matchmaking in style
Upstairs At The Gatehouse
THIS adaptation of Mansfield Park by Gillian Hiscott indulges Jane Austen’s predilection for matchmaking, moralising and mockery. Our heroine for the evening, the demure Fanny Price, ghostly and disdainful in the capable hands of Helen Clapp, is sent to live with her wealthy relations in the countryside. Bullied by her vain, spoiled cousins, Maria (Amy Silver) and Julia Bertram (Becky King), the only family member who shows her kindness is her love-match, Edmund (Jackson Wright).
The arrival of the Crawfords and departure of Sir John lends the plot some much-needed mischief. Pompous Mrs Norris (Beryl Nesbitt of Harry Potter and Spice Girls movie fame), Mr Rushworth and sweetly smug Mrs Bertram (an incredibly convincing performance by Linnie Reedman) offer some comic respite from the morbid interplay between the characters.
Whether or not you find the tale conceited, Austen’s moralising tone oppressive, or consider her neglecting to point out that Sir John owes his material wealth to the slave trade remiss, the production has a lot to commend it.
The most emotive scenes come in the second half. Dancing in pairs, after Maria and Mr Rushworth are wed, the tension between the characters is explicitly felt and fascinating to watch.
Fanny’s ease in Edmund’s company and her horror at Mr Crawford’s advances are neatly contained in one scene as Miss Crawford plays piano off stage.
When Fanny stargazes with Edmund the recital is light and delicate.
Enter Mr Crawford and the music becomes increasingly violent.
The final scene sees Edmund tell Fanny of his breakdown in relations with Miss Crawford.
All three actors timelessly and passionately weave the tale to a close.
A predictable plot but nonetheless a most “agreeable” evening. Until July 28
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