It’s easy to look for happy endings in Jane Austen, to be as eager as Mrs Jennings to see young ladies married off to their happily ever after.
So it is a testament to the cast under the guidance of first time director Louise Wallace (with the tutelage of Paul Olding) that by the interval I found myself disappointed that Edward Ferrars, sympathetically played by Andrew Fletcher, seemed to have been leading a double life and John Willoughby (the cad Rob Dawson) had lived up to his flighty reputation. I could only hold out hope that Colonel Brandon, the measured and restrained Iorwerth Mitchell, would come to the rescue in Act 2.
The rich characters are bought to life with good humour and a knowing nod towards the original novel. A strong ensemble cast filled the simple and elegantly dressed stage, bringing laughter and just the right amount of dramatic tension.
There were some great opportunities for characters to shine, most notably Ian Crooks’ deft comic timing with Sir John and Gill Morrell as his matchmaking mother-in-law. The responsibility of carrying the story forwards (no mean task with a challenging script) was left in the safe and capable hands of Laura Haynes and Harriet Pocock, who in contrast had to maintain restraint and bubble over with girlish delight, gauging the right amount throughout, job well done.
Finally praise must be paid to Chrissy Fryers who designed and made by hand a full wardrobe of beautiful and lavish costumes for every occasion,leaving me longing for a period when they really knew what to wear.