FLIRTATIOUS fancies and considerable charm form an integral part of the playful-but-faithful adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the latest offering from Melville Theatre.
Adapted by Kate Hamill in 2016 and directed by Vanessa Jensen, the Austen classic tells the story of the Dashwood sisters and the path their life takes after the sudden death of their father.
Evicted from their family home by uncaring relations, and left both financially and socially vulnerable, the three sisters and their mother move to a simpler life in Devonshire.
Like all Austen stories, Sense and Sensibility is set in England in the early 19th century and is concerned with inheritance, real estate, income, reputation, love and the possibility – and necessity – of making a suitable match.
“Having directed Pride and Prejudice in 2007 and Emma in 2012, it seemed time to do another Austen given Sense and Sensibility is one of her most popular novels,” Jensen said.
“The previous ones I directed were quite traditional but this version by Kate Hamill has a more modern feel to it.
“It’s still set in the early 1800s and the language is still faithful to the time and Austen’s writing – but the style and structure of the play itself has an energy and humour that is noticeably different.
“Hamill has created a chorus of high-society creatures, the Gossips, and this adds a wickedly funny dimension to the story.”
The main challenge, according to Jensen, is the fast and frenetic pace of the play.
“Aside from the two main characters of Elinor and Marianne, everyone else plays multiple roles, with little or no costume or setting changes,” she said.
“Ensuring each actor clearly and distinctly portrays these different characters, so the audience can follow the story, is the biggest challenge.”
First appearing on stage as an eight-year-old and directing her first show at 14, Jensen has a wealth of theatre experience behind her.
She wrote, directed, stage-managed and acted in various shows at Curtin University’s Hayman Theatre over a four-year period and has staged a plethora of successful productions at the Old Mill and Melville Theatres.
Jensen has plenty of best director and best play awards and nominations to her credit for shows including Away, Jamie’s Chooks, Twelve Angry Men, Mr Bailey’s Minder, Amadeus, Rabbit Hole and Love, Loss and What I Wore.
“After directing two contemporary, small cast dramas in a row, with Stop Kiss in 2017 and Mr Bailey’s Minder in 2018, I was looking for something very different with a large cast and perhaps a period setting,” she said.
“As an avid Austen fan, Sense and Sensibility seemed the perfect fit.”
Sense and Sensibility plays at 8pm May 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 with a 2pm matinee on May 12. Tickets are $20, $15 concession – book on 9330 4565 or at www.meltheco.org.au.
Melville Theatre is at 393A Canning Highway (corner of Stock Road), Palmyra.