Famously, little is known of Shakespeare the man, although we actually know more about him than other playwrights of the time. The gaps in our knowledge are taken as an open invitation to screenwriters, novelists, and everyone else to invent whatever they like to make their own version of him. Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman chose to straightwash the bard in their screenplay for the Oscar-winning 1998 film – Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day is widely recognised as having been written for a man. The screenplay takes plot points from Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night, with the idea that these life events inspired the plays, when in truth Shakespeare’s plays were adaptations of pre-existing stories. Not that this matters if we take this version at face value. Lee Hall’s stage adaptation of the screenplay holds true to the spirit of the film, and there’s a lot of fun to be had recognising versions of famous quotes. Even if you’re not well-versed (ha) in the Works, there is much to enjoy in this historical rom-com.
What strikes you first off in this sumptuous production is the set, which evokes the Globe Theatre and serves well for other locations. Milling around pre-show the cast give us previews of their costumes. As ever the costume department at the Crescent goes all out. This is a fabulous-looking show; Rosemary Snape and her team should be commended.
Oliver Jones is a handsome and endearing Will Shakespeare, managing to be both cerebral and bumbling. Alisdair Hunt makes an impression as his rival-mentor-friend Kit Marlowe. The notion that Marlowe fed Will some of his best lines under a balcony is more akin to Cyrano de Bergerac!
Bethany Gilbert absolutely shines as Viola de Lesseps who disguises herself as a boy in order to secure a role on the stage. Her delivery of the verse is second-to-none, although the play misses the opportunity to make the most of Will’s apparent attraction to someone of the same sex, as in Twelfth Night, say.
The ever-excellent Jack Hobbis is, have a guess, excellent as ever in his portrayal of harried theatre manager Henslowe, with superb timing and a performance that is just the right side of Carry On. The mighty James David Knapp absolutely storms it as the larger-than-life actor Ned Alleyn, while Joe Palmer is suitably entitled and horrible as villain of the piece, Wessex.
Also great are Mark Thompson as the bullish financier Fennyman who taps into his artistic side when he lands the role of the apothecary; Phil Rea as a deliciously bombastic Burbage; and Pat Dixon-Dale as Viola’s long-suffering Nurse. Jaz Davison’s imperious Queen Elizabeth is not without nuance.
There are many pleasing moments from supporting players: Charles Hubbard as boy-actor Sam; Dylan Guiney-Bailey as a bloodthirsty Webster; Niall Higgins as the Nurse within the play; Simon King as a riverboat cabbie…
A taut consort of musicians and vocalists provide period music to underscore the action and to cover transitions, and it all sounds perfectly lovely under Gary Spruce’s musical direction. There are a few moments when the music almost drowns the dialogue – luckily Mark Thompson is often around to tell them to shut up!
Director Michael Barry keeps the action well-focussed on an often busy stage – the period choreography is charming and doesn’t get in the way of the action. Keith Harris’s gorgeous set is backed by beautiful scenic projections, with Kaz Luckins’s fight direction adding authenticity as well as excitement.
A fine and funny fabrication that demonstrates the high quality production values on which the Crescent prides itself. All in all, an evening of excellent entertainment.
Eric Idle’s musical parody of Arthurian legend speaks of a leader who will rise from chaos to unite a divided country… We couldn’t half do with King Arthur today! I doubt such a leader will spring from the current Tory leadership contest.
This lavish production at the Crescent is directed by Keith Harris, bringing together all the technical elements of the production and marrying them to an outstanding cast, with the result being a hugely impressive, massively enjoyable visit to the theatre. They really have pulled out all the stops with this one. Colin Judges’s splendid set of castle walls, towers and trees has just the right amount of storybook illustration to it, while Stewart Snape’s costume designs remain true to the period (when they need to) and introduce glamorously anachronistic specimens (when they don’t): the Camelot presented here has more in common with Las Vegas than Medieval England! There is also an appearance by a magnificent wooden rabbit. Of course there is.
Joe Harper heads the cast as King Arthur, imperious, regal and daft in equal measures. He has a fine singing voice too – in fact, when the knights all sing together, the quality enriches the material. Idle’s songs are pastiches, sometimes simplistic in structure, but the chorus at the Crescent still delivers the goods. The musicians, under the baton of Gary Spruce add pizzazz and texture to the score. Beautiful.
The female lead is Tiffany Cawthorne’s Lady of the Lake, with a dazzling display of vocal fireworks that doesn’t take itself seriously, mocking the over-singers and belters of musical theatre and elsewhere. Cawthorne is also a delightful comic player and doesn’t miss a trick.
Among the knights there is plenty to relish: Mark Horne’s camp Sir Robin, Paul Forrest’s heroic Lancelot (who has a surprise for us later on that is deliciously realised), and Nick Owenford’s Marxist-peasant-turned-loyal-knight Dennis Galahad. I always have a soft spot for the faithful manservant Patsy, and here Brendan Stanley does not disappoint in a masterclass of a portrayal that demonstrates how supporting roles can make a mark. Brilliant.
There are so many highlights, so many hilarious throwaway moments, I can’t mention them all, but I have to bring attention to Katie Goldhawk’s defiant posturing as the stubborn Black Knight, Jack Kirby’s Hibernian enchanter, Tim, Luke Plimmer’s Not Dead Fred, and Dave Rodgers as a taunting French soldier.
For me, the funniest scene is between Herbert (Nick Doran) and his father (Toby Davis), with a couple of dim-witted guards and a daring rescue by Lancelot. Doran plays the gayness of the role without mockery or stereotype and his Herbert is all the more endearing because of it.
You don’t have to be a Monty Python aficionado to be royally entertained. For those of us that are, it’s fun to identify where Eric Idle nicked the ideas from. Only the other day I was bemoaning the fad for adapting every bloody film into stage musicals – this is one of the best ones, not least because it makes fun of the theatrical form as much as sending up the content.
Director Keith Harris gets the tone spot on and for almost all of it, the required energy levels are there to carry it off. This is a real tonic of a production, joyous, silly and glorious – now, if only I could stop whistling THAT SONG from The Life Of Brian…
Brendan Stanley and Joe Harper (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)
Chekhov done right is hugely demanding of any company attempting to stage one of his plays. But if the company does get it right, the play becomes less demanding on the audience and, in fact, becomes a pleasure. Here, director Andrew Brooks gets it right, eliciting nuanced and rounded performances from his cast, in this enjoyable adaptation by Christopher Hampton.
Jacob Williams shines as neurotic young writer Konstantin Gavrilovich Triplev – (the main problem I have with Chekhov is the names. Sometimes characters use the full name, a diminutive version, or a different name altogether, so it can take a while to sort out in your mind who they’re talking about!) Williams seems effortlessly naturalistic, balancing Kostia’s jaded outlook and insecurities with passion for the theatre. Konstantin’s descent into mental illness is expertly portrayed.
As his mother, Irina So-and-so and Such-and-such, Karen Leadbetter gives us the ego of the famous actress, her insensitivity and selfishness – all at Konstantin’s expense – in a measured performance that never goes over the top. John O’Neill is more down-to-earth as her lover, celebrated writer Trigorin; he really comes into his own when Trigorin describes the writer’s lot.
The object of Konstantin’s affections, the tragic Nina is played by Hannah Birkin, who is marvellous in the part. She even performs the pretentious twaddle of Konstantin’s play with conviction. This is a story of unrequited love – most of the characters are afflicted by it, setting off a chain reaction of events.
Dave Hill is endearing as ailing Uncle Pyotr, while the mighty Colin Simmonds perfectly inhabits his role as the family doctor. Amy Thompson is the picture of misery as the lovelorn Masha, and Papa Anoh Yentumi gives an assured performance as pipe-smoking Shamrayev.
The costumes by Pat Brown clearly depict the class structure of 1895 Russia, and the beautiful set by Keith Harris and Megan Kirwin, with its tree trunks and elegant furnishings, basks in the atmospheric lighting of Kristan Webb’s design. This is a classy production of a classic play, which brings out most of the humour inherent in the text with credible characterisations that keep on the right side of melodrama.
Eminently watchable and entertaining, this is one Chekhov you really ought to check out.
Dave Hill and Jacob Williams (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)
Richard Bean’s hit comedy is served up with gusto by director Mark Payne and his energetic ensemble. Set in Brighton in 1963, this is a world of gangsters, scrap metal merchants and lawyers, where the height of sophistication is ‘a pub that does food’.
Leading the cast as the hapless Francis Henshall is Damien Dickens, who puts his own stamp on the role, making it less James Corden and more Adrian Chiles. Dickens has the unenviable task of beating himself up, which he manages with aplomb, and I warm to him as the performance progresses. He could do with some padding to make more sense of the references to the character’s bulk.
Naomi Jacobs is absolutely perfect as Rachel Crabbe in disguise as her late twin brother Roscoe, and she is matched in brilliance by Shaun Hartman as her love interest, Stanley Stubbins. This pair are Henshall’s two guvnors and it is from the contrivances of the plot that keep the bosses separate that most of the farce arises.
Graeme Braidwood convinces as patriarch Charlie ‘the Duck’; Hannah Bollard is pitch perfect as Henshall’s love interest Dolly in an arch and assured performance, while Jason Timmington’s declamatory actor Alan Dingle is also enormous value. Lara Sprosen’s Pauline is winningly dim. There is strong support from John O’Neill as Lloyd Boateng, Jordan Bird as Gareth, and Brian Wilson as Harry, but the show is almost stolen from the leads by a brutally slapstick performance from Jacob Williams as doddering octogenarian Alfie who bears the brunt of the comic violence.
The set, by Megan Kirwin and Keith Harris, is stylish and functional without being fussy so the cast has plenty of room to run around in. Vera Dean’s costumes evoke the era effectively – although Harry Dangle’s sleeves could do with turning up!
Payne paces the action to maximise comic effect. The asides are delivered with pinpoint timing and Bean’s hilarious script, brimming with brilliant lines, is given the energy and punch it needs to make it work.
A splendid production that is laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish, proving there is still plenty of mileage in long-established comic tropes (the play is based on an 18th century Italian piece) and demonstrating yet again the wealth of talent on and off the stage at the Crescent. I had a boss time.
Damien Dickens and Jacob Williams fail the audition for Help The Aged (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)
Of all the incarnations of John Buchan’s novel of 1915, Patrick Barlow’s stage adaptation is my favourite – perhaps it’s because the world has moved on and the stiff-upper-lip hero is hard to take seriously anymore. I have lost count of the number of productions I have seen yet it is still with excitement that I approach this one in the Crescent’s Ron Barber studio.
The space is dominated by Keith Harris’s set, which consists mainly of a mini proscenium arch with curtain and a rostrum. This comes in useful for scenes set in the London Palladium and later in a Scottish hall, but most of the time it pushes the action downstage and so close to the audience it feels cramped. The rest of the scenery is conjured from judicious use of some simple settle-type benches, which create an armchair, a box at the theatre, a bed and so on as the story demands. There is a portable window, which is used for laughs, but no portable door – a missed opportunity, there.
The cast of four is very strong. Leading is a dapper David Baldwin as urbane twit and action figure, Richard Hannay. He is pitch perfect and, in this intimate space, you can see Hannay’s cogs working behind his eyes. As his three leading ladies, Annabella Schmidt, Pamela, and Margaret, Molly Wood is also strong – her ‘Cherman’ accent is particularly good, but she needs to ensure that Pamela’s best line (I’m not surprised you’re an orphan) is not lost among her wracking sobs.
Everyone else is played by a couple of ‘Clowns’, both of whom prove their versatility. Katie Goldhawk’s Scottish characters come across especially well, while Niall Higgins’s nefarious Professor and his wacky Scottish landlady are hilarious.
Director Sallyanne Scotton Mounga elicits wonderful characterisations across the board, and her staging gives rise to plenty of titters. In her hands, Barlow’s script is consistently amusing but I get the feeling we are being short-changed when it comes to the play’s set pieces: the escape from the train, for example. Much fun is had with the party behind the closed-door bit, but the wild wind outside Margaret’s cottage is another opportunity overlooked. The sound effect is there, courtesy of Roger Cunningham, but it doesn’t affect the action. More could be made of the actors’ physicality to get locations across. Further steps could be taken.
There is plenty to enjoy here, but I come away thinking the creative envelope could be pushed a little further to give us moments of inventiveness to dazzle and delight and take our breath away.
Strangers on a train: Katie Goldhawk, Niall Higgins and a bemused David Baldwin (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)
Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Sunday 27th May, 2018
It’s no secret that Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis’s Urinetown is my favourite musical of all time. Set in a near future, where water is so scarce even going to the toilet is regulated and controlled – and costly, with the laws enforced by a police force very much in the pay of the corporation. The poor, of course, get the worst of it, scrabbling for coins and queuing for hours for the ‘privilege to pee’. Transgressors are swiftly despatched to Urinetown, from whose bourn no traveller returns. Whenever there’s a production in the offing, I meet the news with a mixture of excitement and dread – excitement to get the chance to see it again, and dread in case the producing company make a hash of it. In the case of the Crescent Theatre, I am able to cast aside the dread entirely as soon as it begins.
Brendan Stanley is our narrator, the show’s heavy, Officer Lockstock. His exchanges with Little Sally (Charlotte Upton) provide most of the show’s Brechtian, fourth-wall-breaking moments, for this is a musical about musicals as much as it is a musical about Urinetown. Kotis’s witty book for the show constantly reminds us, in case we’re in any danger of forgetting, that we’re watching artifice at work. This provides a lot of laughs but the show also has something important to say – but I’ll come to that.
Stanley and Upton are excellent and are soon joined by the chorus of downtrodden, bladder-distressed townsfolk, drab in their boiler suits and headscarves. Accompanied by a tight band, under the musical direction of Gary Spruce, the chorus numbers are sung beautifully – I’ve never heard them better. And I start to get chills…
Leading the cast and leading the rebellion is Nicholas Brady as Bobby Strong. Brady sings powerfully and expressively in a West End worthy performance; as his love interest and daughter of the bad guy, Hope Cladwell, Laura Poyner is sheer perfection, with a robust soprano voice and flawless comic timing in her Judy Garland-like characterisation. Hope and Bobby’s duet gives me shivers. Helen Parsons is outstanding as Penelope Pennywise, wide-eyed manager of the local toilets, and Mark Horne is suitably, casually callous as the villainous capitalist (is there another kind?) Caldwell B Cladwell. There is strong support from absolutely everyone else, including Paul Forrest’s Officer Barrel and Wanda Raven as Bobby’s mother.
Director Alan K Marshall does brilliantly with his large company within the close confines of the Ron Barber Studio, cramming the show with quick-fire ideas, for example a makeshift pieta, complete with halo, and having the chorus sport nightmarish sacks on their heads to signify their move to the mythical Urinetown. Tiffany Cawthorne’s choreography accentuates the quirkiness of Hollmann’s musically rich and diverse score, and it’s all played out on Keith Harris’s dark and dingy, graffiti-strewn set, subtly (or perhaps not so subtly!) splashed with yellow spots! James Booth’s lighting design is a thing of beauty in itself. The production values of this show are of the highest order.
And what does the show have to say to us, apart from giving us fantastic entertainment? Our way of life is unsustainable – we’ve heard this before and we know it but it’s worth hearing again. The show also points out the folly and madness of handing over vital public services to money-grabbing corporations (you know, like what the Tories are doing with our NHS). It all rings ever-so-relevant. How many times do the rail and power companies hike up their prices, with the promised improvements in services never materialising? Every bloody time, that’s how many.
An outstanding piece of theatre – the Crescent has set the bar exceedingly high for whatever musical they tackle next time.
Making a splash: Laura Poyner and Nicholas Brady with the cast of Urinetown (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)
Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Sunday 13th May, 2018
Tom Stoppard’s translation of Gerald Sibleyras’s Le Vent des Peupliers fits into a niche of comedy we’re familiar with in the UK. I think of Foggy, Compo and Clegg cooking up their latest madcap scheme, of Waiting for God, which concerned the inmates of a retirement home, and also I think of Quartet, the play about retired opera singers. In that play, they’re working toward a final concert; in this play, the characters’ objective is escape! They want to climb a hill, rather than just being over it!
Claire Armstrong Mills directs this gentle comedy, with its barbed remarks and the occasional raucous moment. There is some nicely handled physical business with a garden hose, and we enjoy spending time with this trio of old soldiers in their retirement home. John Whittell’s Henri displays a nice line in comic timing. He’s a sort of lanky Alan Bennett figure who delivers some killer one-liners with the precision of a sniper. Brian Wilson is the ailing Phillippe, brimming with conspiracy theories and prone to blackouts due to the shrapnel in his noggin. Wilson’s Phillippe is affable but fragile, and we find we care about him. Dave Hill’s curmudgeonly, cynical Gustave has a vulnerable side – we see how the Great War has affected these men: Henri’s leg, Phillipe’s blackouts, Gustave’s nerves – and now they have the infirmities of old age to contend with on top of it all.
They’re a likeable if sexist threesome and there’s something almost absurdist about the script. A nun (Alice Abrahall) stalks silently across the stage from time to time like the Woman in Black or the Angel of Death. And completing the cast is the stone figure of a dog, who gets to upstage the lot of them at the end.
It’s an amusing couple of hours, finely presented. Keith Harris’s set evokes France, nuns, old age and death in one economic design. That the home is adjacent to a cemetery puts a certain perspective on the residents’ point of view.
There are a few instances when the lines aren’t quite ready to come out in the right order, but I’m sure this will sharpen up as the run continues. The show gives us plenty to laugh at and about, while gently prodding us to ponder what keeps us going, what makes us get out of bed in the morning, and what are we going to do while we’re still able to do it.
Dave Hill, Brian Wilson and John Whittell (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)
David Hare’s 1995 play gets a well-deserved revival in this robust production in the Crescent’s Ron Barber studio. Set in the dowdy North London flat of Maths teacher Kyra Hollis (Alice Kennedy) it reveals the story of her past affair with restaurateur and self-made millionaire, Tom (Graeme Braidwood) through reminiscence and recollection as the protagonists are reunited after a separation of three years – during which time Tom’s wife has died. Guilty feelings abound. As a friend of the family, Kyra is also missed by Tom’s son Edward (Jacob Williams) who regards her as a big sister. Edward turns up out of the blue because his dad has become ‘unbearable’, and so begins an eventful night for Kyra…
As the youthful, mercurial Edward, Jacob Williams is a delight, veering between sweet and gauche with ease in a lively performance. Williams, whose appearances dovetail the main action, makes a lasting impression.
Alice Kennedy’s Kyra is mature (compared with Edward!) but also vulnerable. We glimpse her classroom manner from time to time and in plain sight is her passion for her vocation, her desire to give the help so desperately needed by society’s most downtrodden. There is strength here and also nuance.
Much the same can be said for Graeme Braidwood’s Tom. Opinionated and objectionable, he is also a character of passion. Yes, we may find his views abhorrent, the way he treats people as objects, but he comes across as a credible figure, thanks to Braidwood’s performance and of course to David Hare’s excellent writing.
Graeme Braidwood as Tom and Alice Kennedy as Kyra (Photo: Hannah Kelly)
As much a personal ding-dong as a political slanging match, the play emphasises the humanity of its arguments. The characters are rounded, contradictory and fleshed out beings not mere ciphers to illustrate a point.
Director Mark Payne maintains a level of energy throughout in this emotionally charged drama that is richly laced with humour. Braidwood’s delivery of Tom’s embittered barbs is impeccable and Williams’s Edward is amusingly observed and endearingly depicted – at least he is able to kick-start his relationship with Kyra again.
As ever, production values at the Crescent are high. Keith Harris’s detailed set with its old furniture and working hob (the smell of onions cooking in real time gets me salivating!) and the props (courtesy of Andrew Lowrie, Ben Pountney and Georgina Evans) show nothing has been overlooked, down to the graffiti on the covers of the exercise books waiting to be marked.
Beautifully played and well paced, this is an engaging, grown-up portrait of relationships as well as a heartfelt discourse on the state of our divided nation. Surely the divide is wider now, 22 years later – what a depressing thought! – pushing the relevance levels of Skylight through the roof (I couldn’t resist!).
The Crescent’s new season gets off to a fine start with this adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel. Stephen Sharkey’s script retains the timbre of Fitzgerald’s prose, mainly in the mouth of our narrator Nick Carraway (John O’Neill). Through Nick’s eyes we visit the partygoing rich of the Twenties, a carefree elite who drink and dance every night away. By sheer coincidence, Nick happens to be renting a property next to the massive mansion of the titular Gatsby, who happens to be an old flame of Nick’s cousin, Daisy, who has since married Tom Buchanan… Gatsby urges Nick to organise a reunion, an event from which tragedy springs.
John O’Neill is a serviceable narrator, handling Fitzgerald’s heady words in a matter-of-fact way. As Gatsby, Guy Houston exudes a suave and easy charm; along with Nick we come to understand the man and his motivations. Colette Nooney’s Daisy is coolly laconic while Laura Poyner’s fiery Myrtle injects passion into the piece. Mark Fletcher’s Tom Buchanan has an air of Clark Gable to him. Kimberley Bradshaw seems perfectly at home in the era as famous golfer, Jordan Baker. All the main players are in fine form, in fact, with strong support from character parts: Jason Timmington’s Treves, for example, and Simon King’s Wolfsheim, who brings a flavour New York into this rarefied atmosphere. James Browning’s George Wilson is a fine characterisation but he needs to lift his head more so we see more than the top of his flat cap.
The play saves all its action until the end as the consequences of the characters’ behaviour burst to the fore. We are amused by these people but kept at a distance from them – in the end, we have only warmed to Nick and Gatsby – and so Fitzgerald’s critique of the in-crowd sinks in its teeth. This is the empty hedonism of Made In Chelsea with dramatic bite.
As ever, production values at the Crescent are strong. The art deco arches that represent Gatsby’s gaff, with their artificially organic elegance, evoke the period as soon as we see them. Keith Harris’s set flows swiftly from each location to the next – there are a lot of scenes and changes are enhanced by Jake Hotchin and Tom Buckby’s lighting design, especially the beautiful work on the cyclorama. Stewart Snape’s costumes fulfil our expectations of the era – Gatsby’s outfits are particularly snazzy – and Jo Thackwray’s choreography gives us all the Charleston moves and black bottoms we could wish for. If I had to nit-pick, I would say at times the music playback needs to be a touch louder, and a crucial sound effect – a car crash – needs to have more impact. It is the turning point of the story, after all.
Director Colin Judges keeps a steady pace, allowing moments of humour to surface like bubbles in champagne. Stylish and elegant, this is a great Gatsby.
John O’Neill narrates while Colette Nooney and Guy Houston catch up. (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)
Jessica Swale’s adaptation of the Jane Austen novel whizzes along at quite a lick, condensing the action without cutting any of the important bits. What couldn’t be clearer is the chauvinism of the age and the restrictions placed on women: they can’t inherit, they can’t go anywhere alone with a man – both of which are important plot points. Mrs Dashwood and her daughters are dispossessed after her husband’s death and find themselves in reduced circumstances, swapping the family’s grand home for a little cottage near Exeter. Suitors come calling, scandals come to light… On the surface, it’s a frothy rom-com but beneath it’s a biting social satire. The wry wit of Jane Austen powers the exchanges and fuels the dramatic irony of the situations.
Karen Kelly makes a warm-hearted matriarch as Mrs Dashwood – her announcement of her husband’s death is strongly handled. Naomi Jacobs is suitably restrained and fretful as the serious Elinor; Elinor is the ‘Sense’ of the title, ruled by her head; Marianne the ‘Sensibility’, ruled by her heart and her impulses. Both are played well but I would like more contrast between them. Stephanie Cole’s Marianne who could do with being giddier or at least smiling more, especially from the off. When reading poetry, she should really go for it. Charlotte Upton, in a convincing portrayal as little sister Margaret, seems to embody both aspects of heart and head, in her childlike thirst for knowledge and honest reactions to events.
Thomas Leonard looks the part as the dapper Edward Ferrars, but could do with being a little bit more cut-glass in his delivery of Austen’s erudite dialogue. Jacob Williams makes a pleasant Mr Willoughby, while James Lewis amuses as the sarcastic Mr Palmer. Jordan Bird offers strong support as faithful servant Thomas but Adam Ragg’s Colonel Brandon is a particularly fine characterisation: the stiff-upper lip, the British reserve, the gentlemanly qualities. Decency oozes out of him.
The evening belongs to Laura Poyner, superb in both her roles. Provincial Mrs Jennings’s vulgarity and lust for life is in stark opposition to her snobbish Mrs Dashwood – her Fanny is a joy to behold. The stage comes alive whenever Poyner is on and most of the cast is able to match her energy and commitment.
James David Knapp’s direction keeps the action clear in this stylish and slick production that should do well on its tour of other venues. His original music is bittersweet and evocative. Above all, the play serves as a showcase for the excellent costume team at the Crescent, with flawless and impressive work from Vera Dean, Pat Brown and Olivia Barnes. Keith Harris’s simple yet elegant set: three period doorways among a landscape of books proves a versatile backdrop.
An enjoyable comedy of manners that brings a classic book to life in an accessible and entertaining way.
Mrs Dashwood and her daughters. Stephanie Cole, Naomi Jacobs, Karen Kelly, and Charlotte Upton. (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)