Latest Review – Persuasion [Royal Exchange Theatre]


Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Until Saturday 24 June, 2017

The works of Jane Austen have been adapted in countless forms over the years but perhaps rarely as radically as the Royal Exchange Theatre’s latest main stage production.

Marking 200-years since the publication of Austen’s final completed novel, Persuasion, Jeff James and James Yeatman’s bold new adaptation – directed by Jeff James – takes a brave new approach to things with a modern, minimalist staging that surprisingly manages to capture an authentic sense of the original material, despite the modern dress, quirky rave dancing and a hip-hop soundtrack featuring the likes of Nicki Minaj and Frank Ocean.

Fusing traditional dialogue with a modern style (and making notable use of multi-casting), James uses the European, hybrid concept to draw out and play up the comedic elements quite considerably. Having worked as associate director to the the hugely acclaimed Ivo van Hove on his productions of Obsession, A View From The Bridge and The Crucible, James clearly takes significant inspiration from the avant garde, experimental style that epitomises Hove’s work.

Persuasion centres around Austen’s celebrated heroine Anne Elliot (a particularly strong Lara Rossi), a young woman of 27 years, struggling with the marital pressures of the time, and forced to reopen old wounds when her family relocates from the stately Kellynch Hall to lower their expenses and get out of debt.

With the end of the Napoleonic Wars putting sailors back on shore, the Elliot’s rent their home to Admiral Croft and his wife Sophia, who just happens to be the sister of Captain Frederick Wentworth, the naval officer who broke off a brief engagement to Anne seven years previously when her mentor, Lady Russell, persuaded her of his poverty and uncertain future.

Following his achievements in the war, the now wealthy, advanced Wentworth has returned an eminently eligible bachelor, but will the pair be able to confront and overcome the obstacles of the past?

The 10-strong cast clearly relish the opportunity to explore Austen’s great work in such a provocative fashion, using a rather quirky, deadpan style to make light of some of the more bygone, outdated elements of the plot.

Persuasion is a production that can at times feel slightly scattered, and doesn’t always justify the combination of old and contemporary, but it’s certainly a lot of fun, and with its act one finale, which sees the stage filled with gallons of foam and bubbles (establishing a group trip to the beach at Lyme Regis), designer Alex Lowde presents a series of lively, indelible images that will be remembered for years to come.

Running Time: 2 hours (approx.) (including one 20-minute interval)

Final Performance at The Royal Exchange Theatre: Saturday 24 June, 2017

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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