Persuasion: 'Jane Austen goes clubbing'
- Credit: The Other Richard
Alexandra Palace Theatre
Jane Austen’s Persuasion has been adapted countless times for stage, TV and film but I'll bet there's never been one quite like this co-production between Alexandra Palace and Kingston's Rose Theatre.
Jeff James co-adapts and directs a vibrant, bold and funny production in which The Regency world of Anne and her family is transposed to contemporary England, and the social centrality of the formal ball replaced by the club dancefloor.
The story is well known: Anne Elliot is persuaded by friends and family to break off her engagement to Captain Wentworth. Eight years later they meet again in Bath. He's now rich and the attraction is still there: “will they, won’t they?”
Her sisters and acquaintances are obsessed with gossiping about the talent available in the city and speculating on suitable matches and how to snare them.
The two hours running time flew past - the production mixes contemporary references (“It’s not a party, it’s a gathering!”) with Regency language and shines a light onto how much - but also how little - has changed in 200 years, especially attitudes to class and society's idea of a successful woman.
The cast are first rate; exploiting every opportunity for humour while also carefully exploring their roles. Watch out for hilarious sisters Henrietta and Louisa.
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Fred Fergus' Wentworth is decent, brave, self-deprecating and a damn fine dancer. Sasha Frost is a superb Anne: clever, witty, thoughtful and determined not to lose control of her emotions. Both regret their split and recognise the shallowness of the mating game; they are somewhat aloof but deeply in love.
Their eventual reconciliation feels like a damp squib, but is exactly as Austen drew it: a mature union, not simply an excuse for another party. And the show is exactly what theatre should be - accessible and fun.
Persuasion is at Alexandra Palace Theatre until April 30. Visit www.alexandrapalace.com