Category Archives: Theatre

Theatre review – White Christmas

White Christmas  – review for  Essential Surrey website.

Review: White Christmas by the Runnymede Drama Group

White Christmas is being performed by the Runnymede Drama Group at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking until December 9

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White Christmas is a wonderfully festive feel-good musical, up there with movies It’s a Wonderful Life and Love Actually to guarantee sending you home with an elfy spring in the step, and a song in even the most Scrooge-like heart.

Irving Berlin wrote the iconic song in 1940, and Bing Crosby’s recording of it in 1941 has since sold over 100 million copies. But it was the 1942 film Holiday Inn, starring Bing and Fred Astaire, which has probably done most to immortalise the music, within a heart-warming story.

This production of the musical version of White Christmas is performed by the Runnymede Drama Group, an amateur company but with a rich thespian heritage and renowned as one of the best am-dram groups in the country.

It’s Christmas Eve, 1944. American soldiers from the 151st Division are putting on a Christmas show, to rally the troops on the Western Front. Captain Bob Wallace and Private Phil Davis are natural performers, and close friends. The Division’s commanding officer, General Henry Waverley, is a stickler for discipline but with a heart, and a leg injury that is forcing him to return home. In his Christmas message, he prays for peace and wonders what life will be like in 10 years time…

Fast forward to 1954….Bob and Phil are stars of stage and screen, even appearing on the legendary Ed Sullivan Show. Phil fraternises with the showgirls, but Bob is more traditional and is drawn to Betty Haynes, one of the dancing and singing Haynes Sisters, when Phil engineers a visit to a club where the girls are performing.

The action migrates to Vermont – although Bob thinks he’s going to Florida for the Christmas holidays – where they are all staying at a struggling Inn owned by their old General, and where there is an unseasonal heat wave.

Each episode of the story is brought to animated life by song and dance, every member of the cast throwing themselves into the joyous spirit of the occasion. Count Your Blessings (instead of sheep!) is the advice given by Bob to Susan, the General’s grand-daughter; Let me Sing and I’m Happy is belted out beautifully by Martha, the Inn’s concierge and self-confessed busybody; Love You Didn’t Do Right by Me is the plaintive cry from Betty, back in New York and performing solo after she misjudges Bob.

But the real show-stopper is I Love A Piano, Phil and Betty’s sister Judy opening the second half in a blaze of tap-dancing glory with the rest of the troupe, piano keys on their lapels and fire in their shoes.

Leave your cynicism at the door and embrace this joyous tale of optimism and festive cheer. Come the final curtain, all the loose ends are neatly tied up with a large red Christmas bow and – spoiler alert – it even starts snowing on Christmas Eve, by which time the audience is singing along with the cast and good old Bing.

It would be wrong to call out any single member of this talented group. The whole production – from cast, dancers, set designers, the entire production team and to the excellent 11-strong band, whimsically visible in a retro-style recording booth – exudes professionalism and passion.

Congratulations and thanks to the Runnymede Drama Group for banishing any bah humbug thoughts. Let the festive period begin…

Theatre review – Nocturne – The Romantic Life of Frederic Chopin

What an original concept. Lucy Parham has scripted this engaging performance, fusing music and words as deftly as Rick Stein marries food and travel.

Lucy provides the magical music, some of the favourite piano concertos of Frédéric Chopin , as a dazzling soundtrack to the story of the composer’s romantic life.

Image courtesy of Classic FM

Esteemed thespians Alex Jennings and Patricia Hodge speak the words, the core of which is the outwardly surprising love affair between the delicate genius of young Chopin, newly arrived in Paris from Warsaw in 1831, and George Sand, the slightly older and sexually voracious literary sensation.

Through letters to each other, and occasionally from friends, we follow the lovers from Paris to a disastrous winter in Majorca, where Frédéric is plagued by a consumptive cough, on to Barcelona and back to France, where they at their happiest in Nantes.

But the affair is fated to end in disaster.

Frédéric dies in Paris, in relative poverty and at the tender age of 39, his short life dominated by ill health and melancholy, reflected in many of the pieces played so beautifully by Ms Parham.

This was a charming – and innovative – performance, but I must confess that I found myself more engaged by the words than by the music. And by Alex Jennings’ sensitive acting of his script more than by Patricia Hodge’s sometimes stuttering recital of hers.

Image courtesy of Alisa Connan

But in a nice personal squaring of the circle, this all gave some touching context to my stumbling across the charming hidden Musée de la Vie Romantique a few years ago, the home of Dutch artist Ary Scheffer in a cobbled back street of Montmartre, where the lovers would meet at his Friday salon.

Two of his most regular visitors were George Sand and her lover Frédéric Chopin. Somewhat bizarrely, you can see a plaster cast of her right arm – and the musician’s left hand – in one of the 8 small rooms forming this understated museum.

 

Theatre review – The Real Thing

The Real Thing – review for Essential Surrey website.

A revival of Tom Stoppard’s painfully witty play about love and infidelity is being performed at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford until Saturday 11 November

Mr. Ingram was my English teacher in the mid-1970s. He instilled in me a love of English language and literature that has endured, and for which I am constantly grateful. He introduced me to Tom Stoppard for old-fashioned ‘O’ & ‘A’ Levels, and – from hazy, distant memory – we studied ‘Jumpers’ and ‘Travesties’, both terribly clever, wordy works from the wunderkind playwright who was just hitting his considerably long stride.

By the time Stoppard wrote ‘The Real Thing’ in 1982, I was distracted by Real Life so it was a joy to see this play for the first time this week, in a revival performance that remains faithful to its period of creation.

Max is brooding and drinking in his minimalist urban lounge, building a house of cards that collapses when his actor wife Charlotte returns from a trip ‘abroad.’ After some wickedly witty wordplay, Max tells Charlotte that he has found her passport in the bedroom. She refuses to respond to Max’s accusations of infidelity, and leaves him.

It is only in the second scene that we come to understand that the first was the performance of a play, written by Henry, a renowned playwright who is himself married to Charlotte. In this real world, where life and art are often hard to distinguish, Henry is in love with Annie – Max’s wife and another actor, but also a nascent political activist – and they’re having an affair.

Fast forward two years: Max discovered Annie’s infidelity, and she and Henry have been married for a while. But cracks are beginning to show….

There are multiple themes in this intellectually challenging play. One is words. Writers and words. In a parallel thread, Annie has asked for Henry’s opinion on a play written by Brodie, a former soldier who has been imprisoned for making a misguided political gesture, and whose cause Annie has taken up.

I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead. Henry’s cricket bat analogy to compare his writing with Brodie’s is a huge hit, smashed over the literary boundary.

But the main theme of the play is love. Can The Real Thing survive betrayal and imbalance, infidelity and uncertainty?

‘I believe in mess, tears, pain, self-abasement, loss of self-respect, nakedness. Not caring doesn’t seem much different from not loving.’

Stoppard’s inspiration for The Real Thing came from being ‘intrigued by the playful thought of writing something in which the first scene turns out to have been written by a character in the second scene.’ Otherwise the play has less theatrical artifice than most of his others, and relies more on raw emotion oozing from the actors, as they bring the playwright’s dazzling wordplay to life.

Laurence Fox plays Henry in this emotionally charged revival, directed by Stephen Unwin. He acts with less outward exuberance than the rest of the excellent cast, but perhaps that is just his interpretation of a man constantly torn between his art, life and love.

Image courtesy of The Telegraph

And in the final twist of the play-within-a-play theme and life imitating art, it’s interesting to reflect that Stoppard had a long affair with Felicity Kendall, after she acted in the first performance of The Real Thing in 1982.

Image courtesy of The Telegraph

But it didn’t endure. Unlike my love of English. I wonder if Mr. Ingram is still alive….

Theatre review – Tango Moderno

Tango Moderno – review for Essential Surrey website.

5 STARS, November 1-4. This is an irresistible explosion of dance, music and song, says Andrew Morris

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The tango has its dance roots in the barrios of Buenos Aires, fused with immigrant influences and rhythms from Andalusia and Africa. It thrived in Argentina in the 1930s and exploded anew into the British consciousness with the huge success in recent years of Strictly Come Dancing.

The authentic Argentine tango exudes passion and physical closeness, ‘the heat of the streets and the pulse of life.’ To the spectator, the dance steps look impossibly intricate but for the dancers, the emotion is perhaps more important than the technique. As Al Pacino says in the famous scene from Scent of a Woman, ‘there are no mistakes in the tango. Unlike life.’

Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace have become synonymous with the tango revival in this country. Multiple UK, European and World Champion dancers, they have used their Strictly stardom to move into choreographing, and performing in, innovative new shows.

Their first – Midnight Tango – was based in a moody Buenos Aires bar, weaving a story of tangled love through dazzling displays of the authentic version of the dance.

They are now performing their fourth collaboration – Tango Moderno – co-choreographed with, and directed by, Karen Bruce and I was lucky to catch it at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre. Sadly, Vincent was injured and unable to dance, but his place has been taken temporarily by two world-class dancers, Italian Pasquale La Rocca and Argentinian Leonel Di Cocco.

Tango Moderno is heavily influenced by the classic Argentine dance, but the show has been deftly constructed to be so much more.

A dynamic team of youthfully exuberant dancers perform routines influenced by ballet, hip-hop, cha-cha-cha, break-dancing and many other styles. A cleverly consistent theme of searching for love runs through each piece, with whimsical sets energising the stories. In one, would-be lovers swipe a huge mobile phone screen to deliver Tinder-matches and entertainingly danced date nights. In another, the couples introduce garden tools into a dance. Really.

The story of the show is narrated by Tom Parsons, often in comedic rhyming couplets. The epitome of cool, he wanders through the performance like a roaming troubadour, guitar slung across his shoulder and breaking into excellent voice to accompany some of the dances. His delivery of Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s I’m Only Human will haunt me for a while yet. Rebecca Lisewski shines with voice and is also one of the dance team.

But of course the star of the show is Flavia Cacace. She floats in and out of the danced love stories, and book-ends both halves of the show with sensual performances of the authentic Argentine tango, lithe limbs wrapping around her partner in a blur of ochossacadas and trabadas.

This quality of dance and song is only achieved with the help of equally professional musicians, especially from Oliver Lewis, a virtuoso performer who was recognised as the world record speed-violinist in 2010.

The final tango number, with a sensational marriage of classic Argentinian dance and raking violin, brought the house down, sending the rapturous audience out into the Woking barrio, in search of an empanada and dreaming of a trip to Buenos Aires.

Argentina map, courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

 

Theatre review – A Song at Twilight

A Song at Twilight – review for Essential Surrey website.

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(image courtesy of Alexey Kuznetsov)

I love ScripTease performances from the innovative team at Lynchpin Productions.

Classic, rarely performed or completely new plays are delivered as rehearsed readings. This creates a very different actor-audience dynamic, compared with a traditional play delivered on a large stage, accompanied by complex set designs and with multiple costume changes.

A ScripTease performance is stripped down to a few actors sitting on stools, the playwright’s words, some succinct stage directions read by one of the actors…..and the audience’s imagination.

At last night’s reading of Noël Coward’s A Song at Twilight, we may have started off in the intimate bar space at Guildford’s Electric Theatre, but we were immediately transported to the suite of an opulent lakeside hotel in Switzerland.

Sir Hugo Latymer is staying here for a few months, recovering from illness and lamenting the onslaught of old age. He spends his time abusing Hilde, his loyal Germanic wife of 20 years, and barking orders at Felix, the strapping young Italian-Austrian waiter. The literary titan of his generation is irascible, arrogant, rude and has a jaundiced view of humanity.

And he’s nervous about the impending arrival of Carlotta Gray, with whom he had a 2-year love affair more than 40 years ago. What can she possibly want now….revenge for what Sir Hugo wrote about her in his blunt autobiography? Money, after a less than stellar acting career in the United States, where she fled at the end of the affair? Or something less tangible, perhaps?

The stakes – and voices – are raised when Carlotta tells Hugo she is collaborating with a Harvard professor on a biography about him, and asks for permission to use some old love letters written by Hugo to her and to a mutual friend.

Coward’s script and the actors’ nuanced readings lead us through a labyrinth of witty words, bluff and counter-bluff, surprises and shocks, camouflaged lives and missed opportunities, to a surprising denouement.

Alan Freeman and Rowan Suart clearly enjoy their verbal jousting as Hugo and Carlotta, Edie Campbell’s subtle German accent never wavers and belies Hilde’s inner strength, and Ray Murphy switches seamlessly between the roles of subservient Felix and stage director.

‘A Song at Twilight is the first in a trilogy of plays entitled Suite in Three Keys, which Noël Coward called his ‘swan song’. Each takes place in the same suite of a luxurious hotel in Switzerland.’ Jack Lynch of LynchPin Productions is considering whether ScripTease will perform readings of the other two plays. I hope they do.

Theatre review – Green Forms and Say Something Happened

Green Forms and Say Something Happened – review for Essential Surrey website.

This Alan Bennett double-bill is being performed at the Nomad Theatre in East Horsley until October 28.

Would you like some Marmite on your toast, Mam?’

Remember when our Margaret was late for school, Dad? She made that much of a fuss when we gave her Marmite soldiers for breakfast. She even missed seeing Bert, the Lollipop man, and got into proper trouble with Mrs Swinson.’

If you’re a fan of Alan Bennett, you will love this double-bill of a couple of his rarely seen plays (from 1978 & 1982), currently being performed by Graham Pountney’s Theatre Reviva! community theatre company.

In Green Forms, spinster Doris Rutter and younger married Doreen Bidmead idle their way through a working day in the Precepts and Invoices department of a large national organisation. Processing a single form gets in the way of endless cups of tea, gossiping about people in other branch offices, and re-directing forms to the dreaded Personnel department upstairs.

But the cold wind of change is blowing through their mundane working lives. The computerisation word is whispered in hushed tones. Redundancies have been announced at other branches. And why have they suddenly got a positive avalanche – well, six – Precept forms landing in their in-tray today.

With a bit of unusually energetic detective work, Doreen and Doris realise that Dorothy Binns – the ominous harbinger of change – is coming to work in their cosy office.

Mam Elizabeth and retired Dad Arthur Rhodes are in their 60s, comfortable sitting in their armchairs and with their own company, content reading the newspaper and twitching the curtains to watch the leaves falling from the neighbour’s garden onto their path. Mam is wondering whether she should wash one or two stockings today….

In Say Something Happened, their peace is interrupted one autumnal day by the unexpected arrival of June Potter, a gentle but inexperienced young lass from Social Services.

As I see it, young people have a lot to give old people, and old people have a lot to give young people. You know….caring.’

June has a questionnaire, so that she can make a list of at-risk elderly people for the local Council to keep an eye on. She means well, but is out of her depth with the independent, able-bodied and outwardly perfectly contented couple.

June crumbles as Mam and Dad resist her attempts to pigeon-hole them, and the emptiness of her own life is laid bare as Mam and Dad tell June about their ambitious high-flying daughter – ‘our Margaret’ – whose postcards from around the world adorn the lounge.

But Mam shares a secret with June, and as the deflated young council worker leaves there is a suggestion that the old couple might need to place the patronising HELP sign in their window at some time in the future, after all.

Image courtesy of Melville House Books

Bennett’s genius is his ability to wring meaning and nuance from the minutiae of daily life, and from the cadence of everyday conversations. That outward simplicity and inner depth is beautifully acted by the cast in these two short plays: by Reviva! Founder and Director Graham Pountney as a delivery man in Green Forms and as Dad in Say Something Happened, by Catharine Humphrys as Doris and Mam, and by Louisa Lawrenson as Doreen and June.

And whoever knew that the charming Nomad Theatre was tucked away behind the shops lining East Horsley’s Bishopsmead Parade, camouflaged like Bennett’s perceptive writing?

Theatre review – Harvest

Harvest – review for Essential Surrey website

3 STARS, October 10-14. “If you want to understand how much rural England has changed in the last century, go and see Harvest,” says Andrew Morris

If you want to understand how much rural England has changed in the last century, go and see Harvest, by acclaimed writer Richard Bean. First staged at the Royal Court Theatre in 2005, this sprawling, ambitious play is currently being performed at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre in Guildford, in a production by New Perspectives.

In seven separate scenes the parable spans several generations and 90 years of the Harrison family on their small Yorkshire farm, telling the story of their land in parallel with wider issues and events.

Opening in 1914, this early pronouncement hints at some of the challenges ahead, and at an underlying feud with a neighbouring landowner: “Sometimes I wish Grandad Harrison hadn’t med that wager with the Squire. He’s med a rod for the back of every Harrison following him.

The ever-present William is the glue that binds the farm and the play together. We first see him as a young man, arguing with younger brother Albert about which of them should go to war, and which should stay on the farm with Mam. William has just started courting local lass Maudie and, as their horses are requisitioned for the war effort, hints at his Secret Project idea for the farm.

1934. Albert and Maudie are married, but childless. William is an amputee, sharing his bed with Maudie, and driven by the idea of converting their land into a pig factory. By the 1950s, niece Laura and husband Stefan – a German POW – are managing the successful pig farm, thanks to William’s vision and disciplined system. This is as good as it gets.

Over the next 50 years, the family struggle against an onslaught of challenges: increasingly onerous legislation, from the UK government and then from Europe; Stefan dies from asbestosis, as a result of the pig sheds he erected; rising feed prices from the company bought by the Squire; the lack of youthful labour in the family.

By the time William celebrates his 100th birthday, the Harrison farming heritage is under threat but his stubborn stoicism and wicked humour remain. It is really in the final scene – set in 2005 – where I thought the writer stretched the parable too far, and failed to bring home the bacon.

Whilst undoubtedly a huge theatrical achievement to educate the audience on English rural history at the same time as entertaining us with richly drawn characters and dark humour, it is a fine line to avoid the sense of delivering a social history lecture.

In this ambitious production, 6 actors play 15 characters across the generations. The stand-out performances are from Tom Edward-Kane as William, convincing as both a stout 19 year-old lad and a dribbling, wheelchair-ridden shotgun-wielding centenarian. And from John Askew as plain-talking, pig-fancying labourer Titch, who arrives in the Punk era and threatens to steal the show: “I love pigs. They’re intelligent, but not too clever. Just enough to mek it interesting but not enough to get yer worried.”

Theatre review – Rotten Perfect

Rotten Perfect – review for Essential Surrey website.

4 STARS. Lynchpin Productions present Rotten Perfect, a witty snapshot of the impassioned backstage lives of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. Andrew Morris reviews…

Henry Irving & Ellen Terry image from Lynchpin Productions’ website

Actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry are as inextricably linked as Hepburn and Tracy, Fred and Ginger, wattle and daub. Together, led by Irving as Actor-Manager and with Terry as Leading Lady, they made London’s Lyceum the foremost classical theatre of the Victorian era. They were married… though not to each other.

But whilst – over 20 years from 1878 – they were performing widely acclaimed versions of Shakespearean classics on stage together, their personal relationship was ambiguous. In Artifice’s Rotten Perfect, this innovative production immerses the audience in the white heat of that relationship and invites you to draw your own conclusions.

Henry is under financial and artistic pressure. He wants the Lyceum to continue performing what he knows is popular with its audience, but Ellen is becoming frustrated by the roles on offer and is keen to embrace exciting new writers like Ibsen and Shaw. Will she stay loyal to Irving, or will she succumb to the siren call of brash newcomer George Bernard Shaw, who is writing a play centred around her?

Claire Parker plays Ellen and has also written this fictionalised story for Lynchpin Productions and Artifice. When Ellen was just 16 she married George Frederic Watts, the eminent artist, who was 46 at the time. So performing Rotten Perfect in Surrey’s very own Watts Gallery adds another layer of authenticity to this engaging production. Artifice’s mission is “to perform classical plays in beautiful places, bringing together period text and period locations.” The gallery’s artwork, sculptures, high ceilings and cavernous spaces are all incorporated effortlessly into the performance, and the knowledge that a famous portrait of the artist’s young wife is hanging nearby makes this a very special theatrical experience indeed.

James Sygrove plays Sedgwick, introducing a deft comic touch to proceedings. A young actor at the Lyceum, initially a nervous understudy to the dominating Irving, he blooms when offered more responsibility, both on and offstage, and especially when stepping into the breach to play Henry V. This new-found confidence also empowers him to make advances to Alice Comyns Carr. Played by Lynchpin co-founder Edie Campbell, Alice is the Lyceum’s costume designer – brilliantly creative, astute, and married… but also inquisitive.

And all the while, George Bernard Shaw sits patiently – amongst the audience – biding his time. Played by Ray Murphy, he sporadically jumps into life and reads – with a gentle Irish lilt – his letters to Ellen, his acerbic wit increasingly aimed against the intransigent Irving.

But it is Will Harrison-Wallace as Henry and Claire Parker as Ellen who dominate the story and the stage. Henry’s vanity and purse take a battering when both a promised knighthood and funding for the Lyceum are in jeopardy, because of his relationship with Ellen. But is he too proud to implore her to stay and help save the theatre?

All the company embrace their unique surroundings perfectly to bring this story to rich, artistic life. Rotten Perfect has also been performed at the Barn Theatre, Smallhythe Place, where Ellen lived, and I would urge you to try and see this wonderful production wherever it might be performed next.

Theatre review – The Two Gentlemen of Verona

I have never read Master Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona,  nor seen it performed. Until last night, when the always excellent Guildford Shakespeare Company brought the comedy to vibrant life, in the beautiful gardens of the University of Law and transported to glitzy Italy in the 1950s.

(images from GSC website)

The Two Gentlemen was Shakespeare’s first published play. It is considered to be weaker than the many classics that followed, but it does introduce common themes that he returns to time and time again – love and friendship; infidelity and betrayal; dominating fathers and recalcitrant children; and a girl dressing as a boy.

The two young Veronese gentlemen are best friends Valentine and Proteus. Proteus falls in love with Julia. Valentine leaves for Milan, where he falls in love with Silvia, the Duke’s daughter. Proteus is told by his father to travel to Milan too, where he falls instantly in love with Silvia.

Poor, weak Proteus is completely undone by the urge to obtain the new object of his desire, whatever the cost. Friendship is put aside, betrayal ensues, but contrasted by steadfast loyalty and – ultimately – forgiveness.

This innovative production, directed by Charlotte Conquest, never flags. Comedy quickly overcomes the play’s darker themes, and GSC co-founder Matt Pinches lets rip with his usual array of comic voices – as a slow, West Country station announcer before the curtain comes up, and then as Launce, Proteus’s servant, played with a Welsh accent as broad that of the Pontypool  front row,

But the undoubted star of this production of The Two Gentlemen is Launce’s canine companion Crab. Played by three separate actors throughout the 16 night run, Tiba had Launce – and the entire audience – eating out of his paw last night.

Another triumph for the exuberant Guildford Shakespeare Company. Like Master Will, they just get better and better.

 

 

Theatre review – Austen’s Artifice

Austen’s Artifice – review for Essential Surrey website.

4 STARS, June 19-20. Andrew Morris enjoys an energetic stroll through the works of Jane Austen in Kate Napier’s superbly executed play about writing a novel

This charming literary stroll through the works of Jane Austen was written by Kate Napier – at the request of Chawton House Library – to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility.

Kate considered a traditional adaptation of the novel, but opted instead for a teasing glimpse into many of Austen’s characters, plucked from both her best known and much loved classic novels, but also from less familiar works.

A loose structure explores the different characteristics of Sense – Elinor Dashwood, prudent with good judgement; and Sensibility – sister Marianne, emotional and spontaneous. Through this artifice we meet other female characters from Jane’s genteel society, illustrating the journey of an Austen heroine through the somewhat rarefied atmosphere of her world.

Susan Fitzgerald – now the eponymous Lady Susan Lesley – tries to dissuade her brother from falling helplessly in love with her new step-daughter, whilst Frederica Vernon also seeks to avoid the oppressive control of her imposing, beautiful mother.

Laura and Sophia follow disparate paths through the 15 letters of epistolary Love and Freindship (sic).

Catherine Morland pops up to receive some guidance from Isabella Thorpe before coming across Henry Tilney, from Northanger Abbey.

And from little known Lesley Castle, a searingly comic novella, Charlotte and Eloisa Lutterell ponder the primary concern, should a bridegroom be fatally wounded on the eve of the wedding….what on earth should one do with the splendid food, to avoid it going to waste?

You get the drift.

This is a whimsical and hugely entertaining dive into the literary genius of Jane Austen, allowing us to dissect the social structure of her time through so many of her well-crafted characters.

What is remarkable about this production of Austen’s Artifice is that the panoply of characters is performed by just two female actors. As Jane (played by a bonneted Cath Humphrys) sits at her writing desk, Claire Ni Ghormain and Charlotte James bring the stories to sweet, vivid life, as effortlessly as the author skewers the social niceties of her period.

And whilst the inevitable focus is on female Sense and Sensibility, the male presence is well represented by malleable-faced and multi-accented James Sygrove.

Mention must also be made of Musical Director Andrew Hopkins. He may have been tucked away behind Jane’s writing desk, but he provided the perfect soundtrack to proceedings.

This was a hugely rewarding immersive theatrical experience, filling the Farnham Council Chamber with literature, love, laughter…and plenty of both Sense and Sensibility.

Artifice is a company of professional writers and actors, whose mission is to perform classical plays in beautiful places, bringing together period text and period locations.”Artifice is part of LynchPin Productions Theatre Company, based in Godalming, and Austen’s Artifice will be performed at various locations throughout the summer.