The State Theatre Company of South Australia
Dunstan Playhouse
Until 26 May 2018

Review by Kylie Pedler

Kate Hamill’s 2016 adaption of Jane Austen’s classic story about gossip, courtship, society values, human frailty and family loyalty is hilarious and director Geordie Brookman has taken every opportunity to play on this. Maintaining elements of upperclass toff, but brewed with an array of spice, an abundance of nonsense, and bike-riding quirky placard scene-changes, this classic novel has undergone a delightful contemporary makeover.

The play begins with the death of Mr Dashwood, in a time when inheritance laws result in half brother John Dashwood (Dale March) and his money-clutching wife Fanny (Lizzy Falkland) ensuring that the Dashwood ladies (Mrs Dashwood, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret) are left almost penniless and are sent packing. A generous cousin Sir John Middleton (Geoff Revell) and his kind but meddling mother-in-law, Mrs Jennings (Falkland) offer them a modest cottage. The eldest daughters, Elinor (Anna Steen) and Marianne (Miranda Daughtry), must now find themselves “a good match” amongst a swirl of teacups, and dinner parties. As with every situation, when Elinor and Marianne fall for men who are unavailable or otherwise engaged we witness a turmoil of emotions expressed in completely opposite ways.

As the overly emotional, Shakespeare-quoting Marianne, Daughtry is outstanding. Her zest for life accentuates the reserved propriety of sister Elinor who deals with her burdens silent and alone. Daughtry and Steen work well together and bring a pleasant balance to each scene. Nathan O’Keefe is brilliant as the awkward, stuttering Edward (Elinor’s love interest), and as the youngest daughter Margaret, Rachel Burke is buoyant in spirit and highly animated.

This is one fine ensemble: as each member becomes unrecognisable changing from scene to scene to play a number of roles. As a gaggle of gossips in bonnets and feathers they also cleverly become carriages and clopping horses. And while also acting as stage crew on many occasions a new scene begins seamlessly as a previous scene is dissolved.

The elegant set with its softness of colour by Ailsa Paterson provides a large space for the frolicking action and comes to life with its moving parts enabling the use of multiple entrances, moving set pieces and clever staging. Carefully choreographed set changes maintain a fast pace with a medley of pirouetting actors, twirling props, and sliding furniture, all without cracking a single tea cup. Musical interludes (arranged by Stuart Day) between scenes are a hysterical addition.

The State Theatre Company has produced a night’s entertainment you won’t want to miss.