Tickets: Salisbury Information Centre, Fish Row, Salisbury Phone: 01722 342860 or from www.ticketsource.co.uk/studiotheatresalisbury
In Tim Luscombe’s stage version of Jane Austin’s classic novel, Director Linda Hayman is able to embrace her previous directorial enthusiasm for Gothic productions and successfully bring a Jane Austin classic to the Studio Theatre for the first time in its history. With the calibre of this production, it is unlikely that Northanger Abbey will be the last Austin tale to be performed here!
From the very first moments, Hayman’s skilful direction and eye for detail is evident: the movement of the travellers in the carriages, observation of the social etiquettes of the day, almost faultless varying pace capturing the ideal balance between comedy and dramatic tension, perfectly created tableaux, the Regency Period social dances and the development of excellent characters.
Laura Melville is magnificent in the role of Catherine, giving a performance that is the epitome of an Austin heroine; Catherine’s thought process is clearly seen at all times across Melville’s face, her physicality and focus, Catherine’s poise and spirit captured to a tee, the emotions that Catherine goes through as she dances with Henry palpable. She makes an engaging and sincere couple with Kris Hamilton, who is absolutely splendid in the role of affable, charming (despite some more chauvinistic traits typical of the time!) and trustworthy Henry, and the couple’s connection with each other is beautifully portrayed.
Melville also shares a wonderful onstage rapport with the equally impressive Madeleine Ellis (Isabella) – the deportment, etiquette, mannerisms and precise speech of Received Pronunciation of the period are so different from their contemporary counterparts, but together Melville and Ellis bring such natural credibility to their performances that you really believe the changing dynamics of this female friendship. Ellis is outstanding in the role, the antithesis of Catherine’s steadfast attractiveness; her character is less beautiful of soul than she is beautiful of face, but she turns on the charm when it suits her to do so, the ugly jealous and spiteful side of her character switching on and off as she manipulates those around her for her maximum benefit (perhaps a slightly unfair assessment of her character bearing in mind the social politics at the time) and Ellis perfectly portrays the multidimensional aspects of Isabella.
There are some delightful performances amongst the supporting roles, particularly from the Youth Theatre section: Charlie Thompson’s energy and comic aptitude as the duplicitous and conceited John, Cassia Woolley is elegantly enchanting as Henry’s compassionate sister, with both Adam Pinnock’s earnest, facially expressive performance as Catherine’s brother, James, and Martha Rose McKeown’s captivating cameo roles being further examples of the burgeoning talent to be nurtured and developed amongst the younger members of the cast.
The full review is at: http://sceneoneplus.com/northanger-abbey