Jane Austen is probably the most iconic female writer throughout our history. Her use of language is second to none, her comments on the social changes happening around her show her to have been an acute observer, and she may have been “merely a woman” but she still makes her voice heard.
To see any Jane Austen production in the original regency setting of Bath makes it feel that it has come home given Jane Austen’s strong connection to the city – a place which she brings into many of her books.
Mansfield Park is a delightful social comedy – sensitively adapted by Tim Luscombe. It tells the story of Fanny Price, beautifully played by Ffion Jolly – the eldest daughter of a large but rather poverty stricken family. Fanny’s aunt Mrs Norris played in acerbic style by Karen Ascoe persuades Sir Thomas Bertram, played by Richard Heap, to invite Fanny to live at Mansfield Park and to be brought up with his children – Tom played by Geoff Arnold, Edmund, (Pete Ashmore) and the spoilt daughter of the house, Maria, beautifully portrayed by Leonie Spilsbury.
Fanny is treated very much as the poor relation by most of the household – she is expected to run errands for Lady Bertram (whom we never see as she constantly suffers from ill-health) and Mrs Norris who never fails to remind her of her place and the gratitude she must show to her benefactors. The only person who treats her consistently with kindness is Edmund – the younger son and before very long Fanny falls in love with him.
I will leave you to find out the rest of the story either by seeing the production or perhaps re-reading the book for yourself, but suffice it to say that after all sorts of muddles and several extra characters it all comes out right in the end.
This production makes very clever use of the cast and in fact all, apart from Ffion as Fanny, play multiple characters. This involves some frantically fast costume and role changes for them, and I have to say that it works remarkably well.
Charles Blumenau (director) shows an innovative and positive touch – the play is fast moving while managing to maintain the feel of the regency period.
Kit Surrey’s set is simple but effective – perhaps a little too minimalistic – but it works well and does not detract from the story. The play lends itself beautifully to the opulent setting of the Theatre Royal in Bath.
This is an entertaining evening that I would recommend that you go and see it for yourself. Suffice it to say that I have already dug out my copy of the book and will be re-reading it with great pleasure – now I wonder if there is a Kindle version yet …..