Persuasion at The Rosemary Branch Review

Ever since I was introduced to Colin Firth in a wet shirt, I knew that Jane Austen was a woman after my own heart. Her writing has always appealed to me, and I was thrilled to be seeing my first staged version of Persuasion at the Rosemary Branch Theatre.

Persuasion tells the story of heroine, Anne Elliot who falls in love with Captain Wentworth and is advised by her good friend, Lady Russell, to break off an engagement as he is of “little consequence.” Fast forward 7 years and Captain Wentworth has now made a name for himself and has a great deal of money. How will this change things for Anne? Does Captain Wentworth feel the same, or have they both moved on?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s style of writing is incredibly descriptive. Her poetic written voice makes up a massive percentage of her novels compared to character speech. The adaptation of this complex text by Bryony J. Thompson involved the characters speaking the description as direct address to the audience. A device that I thought was cleverly performed by all the actors and wonderful for the spectators - we were there with them the entire time.

This cast of 6 actors deftly mastered the art of subtlety with their multirole. Each of the parts had tiny idiosyncrasies which gave the audience a sense of clarity that I didn’t think would be possible with such an extensive Austen character list. From Mrs Clay’s (Sarita Plowman) twitchy nose, to Charles Musgrove’s (Adam Elliott) hilarious, gaping smile, I found myself enjoying the result of some detailed character analysis.

A particular favourite for me was Beatrice Rose who had 4 similar characters to play in this production. The younger sister of the protagonist, Mary Elliot was shrill and irritating in the most charming of ways and her Mrs Smith was understated and caring. She did a marvellous job of defining her multiple characters and playing them with oodles of truth and energy.

Rose McPhilemy and Philip Honeywell both had moments of brilliance - a charming Anne Elliot with gumption and a Captain Wentworth who delivered his final confession of love with so much passion that it gave Austen on-screen stars a run for their money.

A mention must also be given for the wonderful costumes! Beautiful, simple, elegant and I found myself wishing I had one to wear for my Sunday best!

Overall, I think that everyone should be persuaded to make a trip into Islington to see the remaining performances. A production with heart, warmth and class that transported us back to the period with ease.

Persuasion runs at the Rosemary Branch Theatre until 22nd May.

(c) 2016 Molly Miller

Adam Elliott - Mr Elliot, Charles Musgrove, Captain Benwick
Tom Hartwell - Sir Walter, Admiral Croft, Captain Harville
Philip Honeywell - Captain Wentworth
Rose McPhilemy - Anne Elliot
Sarita Plowman - Lady Russell, Mrs Clay, Mrs Croft, Mrs Musgrove, Louisa Musgrove
Beatrice Rose - Elizabeth, Mary, Henrietta, Mrs Smith

Written by - Jane Austen
Director/Adapted - Bryony J. Thompson
Designer - Bryony J. Thompson
Lighting - Simeon Miller
Stage Manager - Heather Christie
Deputy Stage Manager - Molly Sheridan

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