It must have been stultifying living in Jane Austen’s Georgian-Regent times – well for the women at least. In an age when taking a chaperoned turn around the garden was what passed as entertainment, and going hard at a particularly difficult piece of embroidery was all to occupy some, it would have been a terrible bore – though the Barry Nielsen-directed Emma exposes the machinations of this set with their bygone manners with gusto. At the Genesian Theatre the attention is drawn to the detail, and that detail was captivating.
Who will the feisty Emma end up with? It was signposted well enough, if you have read or watched enough chick-lit and rom-coms, it won’t be a surprise, but finding her way to a particularly dashing man is a laugh as the cast had a lot of fun with this story. Her lack of decorum lands Emma in trouble frequently, but as she is considered a good catch her friends and family never stay vexed with her for long. Her doddering father, friend Harriet and a host of neighbours fawn over her and though she is careless with her own affections, she enjoys nothing more than managing others, particularly the hapless Harriet.
Aptly named Emma Wright played Emma, with Kathryn Hutchins as Harriet. The two women dive headfirst into their roles with enthusiasm and give excellent performances alongside a large-ish ensemble cast. The play was mostly set in the home of Emma and her father, while they entertain (and sometimes avoid) an almost constant stream of visitors. Owen Gimblett designed the beautiful drawing room of Hartfield, which was swapped for a ballroom scene in the second act. Costume design by Peter Henson was stunning, though the men rarely changed the women displayed an array of fabulous frocks.
HIghlights? So many great performances, but Turea Blyth as Miss Bates was my pick as everyone’s favourite spinster aunt. She is relentlessly cheerful and not a bit of a sad sack (like the proverbial spinster) unless deliberately snubbed, which Emma thoughtlessly does on one occasion.
This Pamela Whalan adapted play coincides with the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and this production will satisfy even the most discerning Austen fans. For more information and tickets see: http://www.genesiantheatre.com.au/index.php?mode=now
Featuring: Nathan Bennett, Timonthy Bennett, Rowena McNicol, David Stewart-Hunter, Emma Wright, Kathryn Hutchins, Turea Blyth, Dimitri Armatas, Charlotte Robertson, Joshua Adams and Grace Swadling.
Creative/Tech Team: Barry Nielsen (director), Trudy Ritchie (assistant director), Owen Gimblett (set design), Peter Henson (costumes), Timothy M Carter (lighting) Michael Schell (sound design), Diane Henderson, Theo Papas (stage managers), Leilani Loua and Ian Whalan (lighting & sound operation).
above image by Craig O’Regan