Persuasion – Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield (touring)

★★★★★

Team Review by Nick Holland

The Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield is a gem of the East Midlands theatre scene. It may be compact, but it’s perfectly formed, and the same could be said of Theatre6 and Catherine Schreiber’s production of ‘Persuasion‘ which runs at the Pomegranate until 29th September before taking up residence in Liverpool and Doncaster.

I live, breathe and sleep the Brontës but I also love Jane Austen, so whilst I was thrilled to see a timely adaptation of Persuasion for the stage, I also took my seat with high expectations. Thankfully the small yet versatile cast met and, at times exceeded, my expectations so this should appeal to Austen fans and novices alike.

When it comes to Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice is perhaps her most loved work, and yet Persuasion has all of the themes that Austen lovers, and fans of romance in general, will love. It’s the tale of Anne Elliott and her love for the dashing Captain Wentworth, but it was Jane’s final completed novel, and it has a complexity and maturity that some of her earlier work lacked. This is captured excellently by Theatre6, so whilst we leave the Pomegranate having enjoyed two hours of Regency era escapism, we also find ourselves looking at themes that are still relevant today, such as poverty and the nature of class structures in society.

Theatre6

What I found particularly impressive was how the company recreated the novel with such fidelity despite having a cast of only six actors. Credit for this must go equally to the uniformly excellent cast, and also to Stephanie Dale and Kate McGregor who adapted the novel so well. The set design is simple and yet eye-catching, and what I was particularly pleased to see was that the company had remained true to the early nineteenth century setting of the novel, both in the setting and in the attire worn by the cast. They captured the era perfectly, in my opinion, when all too many period productions have jarring anachronisms or pay little more than lip service to the original work.

Special praise must go to Ceri-Lyn Cissone in the lead role as Anne Elliott. At the beginning of the play we see her fragility and loneliness as she heads out of the first flush of youth single and with her love far, far away on the seas. Ceri-Lyn also perfectly portrays the evolution of Anne, as she finds love and eventual joy with the return of her recently enriched Captain.

Theatre6

Whilst Theatre6 have been very faithful to Austen’s work, which I think is always a good thing when dealing with a genius of her calibre, they have not been afraid to make a few additions to make it especially appealing to modern theatre audiences. I’m pleased to report that this boldness paid off, particularly in the use of originally scored music throughout the play.

This is where the cast’s versatility really pays off, as they are all called upon to play instruments at some point, from the piano to a violin, as well as singing and dancing. The music by Maria Haik Escudero fits the play with aplomb, and helps to create an atmosphere at one point yearning, at others romantic, but always joyful.

This is a play to put a smile on your face and a warmth in your heart. Jane Austen would be proud of this adaptation, and it certainly wouldn’t take much persuasion for me to see it again.

Listings

Monday 24 – Saturday 29 September

POMEGRANATE THEATRE CHESTERFIELD

Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 October

LIVERPOOL PLAYHOUSE

Thursday 18 – Saturday 20 October

CAST IN DONCASTER

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