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Northanger Abbey at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 21st Mar 2017 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds’ production of Jane Austen’s late 18th century novel may only have three backlit panels and a couple of benches to set the scene, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the performances of a young and vibrant company.

I was completely enthralled by the story of the teenage Catherine, who thinks life is like one of the Gothic novels she so loves to read. But through her adventures while taking the waters in Bath and her subsequent visit to Northanger Abbey, we see her develop and grow into an admirable young lady who, of course, looks set to live happily ever after.

It’s a wonderful part for a young actress, for though Catherine and her friends are somewhat immature and vacuous, she goes through so many changes, and Eva Feiler plays her so well, beginning as an awkward child and becoming a loving and lovable companion.

Eva not only has Jane Austen to thank for her role, but also accomplished writer Tim Luscombe, who has already adapted two of Jane Austen’s novels and manages to condense a classic with 30 characters into a play with only eight actors.

While retaining the essence of the book, he presents it as a lively, theatrical and often funny entertainment which has intrigued me enough to want to read the original. The characters walk, talk and act as if in the 1700s but they appear fresh and can easily be identified with young people today.

Joe Parker gets my vote as the most obnoxious, swaggering, selfish youth John Thorpe who lies through his teeth to get what he wants. Annabelle Terry lights up the stage with her vitality as Isabella but this so-called friend of Catherine’s soon shows her true colours as manipulative and selfish and I loved her petulant outbursts.

In complete contrast, Henry Tilney, the object of Catherine’s affections, and his sister Eleanor, are blonde, beautiful and sweet-tempered, and Harry Livingstone and Emma Ballantine play them to perfection. Quite the opposite is their father General Tilney, and Jonathan Hansler’s portrayal as a gruff, mean and selfish man would make him at home in any story of monsters.

Talking of monsters, the play sometimes reverts to scenes from Catherine’s favourite book, The Mysteries of Udolpho, as her imagination runs away with her, and this gives director Karen Simpson carte blanche to have a bit of fun. Melodrama rules as thunder bellows, lightning flashes, and strange, bent, hooded figures scurry around the stage wielding daggers.

Credit must also go to Mark Dymock who is kept pretty busy as lighting designer, and though I feel there is a little too much dancing, movement director Julie Cave certainly puts the members of the cast through their paces with authentic-looking dances of the day.

Northanger Abbey continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until March 25

Box Office: 01753 853888

The tour then continues:

April 3-6: Northcott Theatre, Exeter

April 1-13: Derby Theatre

May 2-6: New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich


May 9-13: The Dukes, Lancaster


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 year ago
    This sounds wonderful, Clare. Thanks
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