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Review: Sense and Sensibility (Canberra REP Theatre)
All the classic Austen tropes are present
Jane Austen’s brilliant balance between the funny and the serious shines in Canberra REP Theatre’s production of her classic story Sense and Sensibility.
Sense and Sensibility follows the three Dashwood sisters as they are forced to move following the death of their father and the romantic pursuits of the two elder sisters. A contrast emerges between the reserved oldest sister Elinor and the romantic middle sister Marianne.
All the classic Austen tropes are present: strong-willed women, dashing male suitors, annoying but lovable family members, plenty of well-meaning gossip and a lot of barely repressed longing.
In a modern adaptation for the stage by American playwright Kate Hamill, this production of Sense and Sensibility from Canberra REP Theatre really highlights the humour in Austen’s work. There are plenty of stand out moments of comedy from a cast of wonderful performances.
Karina Hudson and Annabelle Segler are an excellent duo as sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood complimented by Hannah Cornelia as the younger and more energetic Margaret Dashwood.
They are well supported by great performances from John Whinfield and Sean Reeve as the leading men Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon.
Jack Shanahan as the charming but slippery John Willoughby and Kayla Ciceran as the judgmental Fanny Dashwood make fantastically natural villains.
The lead performers are accompanied by an equally engaging ensemble of ‘gossips’ who at times act almost as narrators for the play as they keep the audience up to date with relevant rumours. This addition ties in well to the themes of rumour and reputation in the original text.
Cate Clelland’s direction of the ensemble is a real highlight. The way that they remain on stage closely listening to the events of the play, and even from behind bushes and curtains at some points, is both funny and fitting.
John and Fanny Dashwood (Robert Wearden and Kayla Ciceran) and Gossips (Sienna Curnow and Kate Garrow). Photo: Helen Drum.
After a very funny first act, the second act becomes surprisingly emotional. Both Hudson and Segler’s performances elevate to match the weight of the story.
A real strength of Austen’s writing is how you come to care so deeply for the characters. It is certainly easy to form an attachment to Elinor and Marianne.
Sense and Sensibility is a great finale to Canberra REP Theatre’s 2022 season and it will be exciting to see what they do next year.
Play: Sense and Sensibility
Writer: Novel by Jane Austen, Adaptation by Kate Hamill
Theatre: Canberra REP Theatre
Director: Cate Clelland
Starring: Karina Hudson (Elinor Dashwood), Annabelle Segler (Marianne Dashwood), Hannah Cornelia (Margaret Dashwood), Ann-Maree Hatch (Mrs Dashwood), Robert Wearden (John Dashwood), John Whinfield (Edward Ferrars), Kayla Ciceran (Fanny (Ferrars) Dashwood), Sean Reeve (Colonel Brandon), Jack Shanahan (John Willoughby), Rob de Fries (Sir John Middleton/Doctor), Ros Engledow (Mrs Jennings), Rosemary Gibbons (Lady Middleton/Gossip 2), Kate Garrow (Lucy Steele/Gossip 5), Sienna Curnow (Anne Steele/Gossip 3), Russell Godwin (Robert Ferrars/Gossip 4), Justice-Noah Malfitano (Thomas/Gossip 1) and Freya Rowell (Gossip 6)
Dates and venues: Canberra REP Theatre, 17 November to 3 December 2022