REVIEW: Persuasion at the Georgian Theatre Royal

DOT Productions have delighted Richmondshire audiences for many years, but this was something very special as they performed Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ with skill and subtlety.

The packed theatre responded with a standing ovation at the finale and well they might, as Austen’s work is not necessarily an easy ‘live’ performance to get right. DOT did so to perfection with compelling acting, clever direction and above all, they managed to convey the humour which is at the heart of Austen’s pen.

‘Persuasion’ may not have as many admirers as blockbusters like ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ ‘Emma’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility’ but it is an engaging, fast-paced play with several memorable Austen lines.

The acting was sharp, led by the heroine of the play Anne Elliot (Susan Garvey-Williams). Anne had a well-judged recipe of sensible, intelligent, cautious Austen-ness about her and she looked the part too. Captain Wentworth (Dom Thomson) was excellent as the hero who gets the gal in the end, via a byzantine set of plots and sub-plots.

Director Pete Gallagher also got it spot on as the rest of the cast had to play multiple roles (Andrew Lindfield, Holly Baynes and Sophie Todd) but they pulled it off with aplomb. They also looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, surrounded by a script belonging to one of our foremost writers.

Your reviewer should be candid – Austen remains his favourite author – so to see her handled so adroitly was a pleasure.

The play centres around Anne Elliot’s initial refusal of Wentworth’s hand in marriage. She was but a teenager and had received strong advice that Wentworth was too lowly ranked in the Navy for her to accept. It was a mistake and although Anne regrets it, she cannot find it in herself to admit her folly. Wentworth felt shunned, but eventually their paths cross again many years later and this time the sailor landed on more welcoming ground.

At a touch under 90 minutes it was just the right length. The comic timing was expertly handled and the cast are now in situ in London from September 12th to October 7th at the Theatre at the Tabard in Chiswick. If you missed this, go and see it if you can and revel in the joys of Austen’s world.