Rose Theatre, Kingston – until 19th March 2022
Reviewed by Bobbi Fenton
‘Persuasion’, based on the novel of the same name by Jane Austen, is an absolute theatrical masterpiece. Adapted by Jeff James to combine 19th century literature with modern day music and clothing, this show takes two things that seem like polar opposites and smashes them together, creating a work of art.
The story focuses on Anne (Sasha Frost) as she decides to stay with her sister, Mary (Helen Cripps) and her husband Charles (Dorian Simpson) and son Samuel (Daniel Aiden Matembe) when her father is forced to move to Bath, and let out their house to make money. Helen Cripps is fantastic at portraying Mary as a stubborn, self-contradicting permanently angry wife, and Dorian Simpson perfectly contrasts with her character, as the more light-hearted, relaxed husband. Annes father (Emilio Doorgasingh) takes with him Anne’s other sister, Elizabeth (Matilda Bailes) who is absolutely desperate to find a husband, because she is almost thirty years of age and still not married. Matilda Bailes portrays this character in such a comical way that it is quite difficult to feel sad for her, especially with some of the comments made by other characters about her need to be married soon. Back in her hometown, Anne soon discovers that the family who are staying in the house includes somebody from her past, who she hasn’t seen in ten years. She discovers that Captain Wentworth (Fred Fergus) is back on land from his travels with the navy, and is still bitter about his history with Anne. By the end of the play, Anne has changed her view on marriage, as she realises in hindsight that she should have accepted a marriage proposal years beforehand.
The set is made up of a tall platform, which appears slightly catwalk-like, and is lit up with lights around the edge. This platform is in two halves, and the top half rotates at certain points during the play. This set works brilliantly with a lot of the scenes, such as each time Anne physically pushes somebody off the side because she doesn’t like what they are saying, symbolizing how her character is pushing them away. This also allows the more serious moments of the play to work really well.
This play is brilliant at representing how the issues from the 19th century, as shown in Austen’s works, are still relevant today, as the scenes all use the same language as the novels, but are set in modern settings, with modern music. It should not be missed by anybody.
Persuasion will play Alexandra Palace from 7th-30th April (https://www.alexandrapalace.com/whats-on/persuasion-2/) so there is no excuse not to see this