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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Rosemary Branch Theatre in association with
Tennison's Quirk and Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre present


Sense and Sensibility


Photo by Andy Barker


by Jane Austen


Adapted by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham


Directed by Helen Tennison


Designed by Ellan Parry


Lighting design – Nicholas Holdridge


Composer – Benedict Davies


Rosemary Branch Theatre


25 January - 19 February 2012
and on Tour

Entering a very literal scene, the audience first encounters the entire cast of Sense and Sensibility inhabiting a large suspended frame, murmuring and fidgeting, palpably eager to portray their interpretation of this pivotal Romantic novel. Empty frames will continue to be employed to effect set and scene changes as the characters become familiar and the story of handsome sisters, Elinor (Emma Fenney) and Marianne (Bobbi O'Callaghan) Dashwood unfolds.

Recently bereft and with the necessity to leave their beloved home at Norland Park to make way for their imposing new sister in-law Fanny looming over them, the sisters' togetherness is palpable. Elinor, collected and considered in her approach to life and more conservative than her sister in both dress and manners, will lead the sensible side of the action. Emotional and impulsive Marianne will be led by her heart and exhibit numerous displays of sensibility as she pursues passion and amusement with equal flippancy.

The men the Dashwoods first choose to romantically pursue suit their tastes in a comical fashion. Edward Ferrars (James Burton) is endearingly awkward in his mustard tails with his literal outlook, stumbling about gracelessly as he tries to engage Elinor. Conversely, a washing line full of white laundry proves an excellent prop device in the playful scene in which Willoughby (Jason Eddy) woos Marianne and their romance blossoms through a shared love of Shakespeare and a delightfully depicted sense of abandon.

Lainey Shaw delivers a robust performance at the epicentre of the comedy as the Dashwoods' enthusiastic and well meaning Great Aunt Jennings. The eyes and ears of high society, it is she who provides the most candid insight into a world where marriage arrangements are decided by older relatives and hinge on financial means. The excitement and possibility of London is acutely conveyed - it is where everyone who is anyone will move for the winter, matches will be made and surprises unveiled.

Although one formal ball is the only significant London outing depicted in this adaptation, the matching scarlet-themed costumes and deliberate dancing movements acutely convey the formality and ritual involved in each and every one. Moving piano pieces composed by Benedict Davies are played at intervals serving to solemnise the proceedings and intensify the atmosphere. Considered and precise props and detailed costumes ensure authenticity and inject a warmth, drawing an already engaged audience deeper into the Dashwood's world.

James Burton delivers a prominent performance with his knowing and skilfull representations of two of the Dashwood's significant love interests. As Elinor's loveable fool Edward he is suitably naïve and reluctant, while as Colonol Brandon he is patient, constant and a thorough gentleman. The audience is audibly appreciative of his versatility and enthusiasm. The genuine sisterly bond between the Dashwoods is also worthy of especial mention for its seeming effortlessness, Bobbi O Callaghan and Emma Fenney embrace their roles in so convincing a manner.

The play ends as it begins, with all the characters standing in a live portrait within a large frame held up with black ribbon. It feels almost a pity after all the acutely rendered twists and turns in the tale that the play should inevitably have ended in so utterly sweet and sentimental a fashion. Refreshingly, thanks to the progressive and tremendously witty nature of this adaptation, the audience are empowered, if not compelled, to envisage Elinor and Marianne's lives beyond the happy-ever-after in a most satisfying way.
Box Office: 0207 704 6665
Tickets: £12/10 (All £8 on Tuesdays)
Rosemary Branch Theatre
2 Shepperton Road, Islington, N1 3DT


Tour Schedule 2012
25 Jan-19 Feb   Rosemary Branch Theatre, Islington                                 0207 704 6665
23-25 Feb  1-3 March   Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford                       01483 44 00 00          
11 March           Norden Farm Arts Centre, Maidenhead                            01628 788 997
16 March           The Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture, Windsor       01753 866 865
21 March          Olde Towne Hall Theatre, Hemel Hempstead                    01442 228 091

23 March           Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton                                    0844 884 8832

29-30 March     The Royal Inn on the Park, London E9                              0207 704 6665
10-14 April       Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon                                               0208 688 9291

17 April             Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury                                             01743 281 281

18- 20 April      Chelmsford Civic Theatre                                                 01245 606 505  

22 April             Hawth, Crawley 3pm show.                                              01293 552 941

26-28 April       Devonshire Park, Eastbourne                                           01323 412 000                           
9 May               Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells                                       01892 678 678
10-12 May        Winchester Theatre Royal.                                                01962 840 440

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