Theatre Review - Persuasion

Jeff James (who also directs) and James Yeatman have reimagined Jane Austen’s Persuasion for contemporary times. They make several themes relevant for a young audience, but Austen’s exploration of social class is lost.

Anne Elliot (Sasha Frost) lives with her father Sir Walter (Emilio Doorgasingh) and sister Elizabeth (Matilda Bailes making an impressive debut). Her other sister Mary (Helen Cripps) is married and lives nearby. Their father, crippled by debt, decides to relocate to Bath and rent the family estate, Kellynch Hall.

Approaching 30, Elizabeth is obsessed with getting married but Anne, 27, is more circumspect. Eight years earlier, she had turned down a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth (Fred Fergus) because her family had persuaded her that she could do better. It’s a decision she came to regret and she’s been single ever since.  

Anne decides to delay going to Bath and stays with Mary. There she socialises with the Musgrove family and their daughters Henrietta (Caroline Moroney) and Louisa (Bailes). Meanwhile, Kellynch Hall has been rented to Admiral (Doorgasingh) and Mrs. Croft (Grace Cookey-Gam) who is Wentworth’s sister. He has returned from sea and is now considered a man of means.

Everything looks set for a reunion between Anne and Wentworth and a second chance at love, but Wentworth appears to be more interested in Louisa. Meanwhile, Anne has captured the eye of her handsome cousin Mr Elliot (Adam Deary). Can Anne and Wentworth find a way back to each other?

Several of the cast wear tracksuits and trainers, Sir Walter dons a bath robe, and the production features a soundtrack by Frank Ocean, Dua Lipa and Cardi B. Instead of sedate waltzes in Regency ballrooms the dance is hard and fast under neon lights, while a day at the seaside is transformed into a foam party. This lively production is sure to alienate Austen purists but will delight those after less reverential treatment.

 Until April 30

Originally published by the Islington Tribune