Sense and Sensibility – The State Theatre Company – The Dunstan Playhouse – 4K

By Tom Eckert


Sense and Sensibility takes the classic Austen text and ironically puts a retro spin on it. In a continued effort to bring classic texts to a modern audience in an entertaining and accessible way the State Theatre Company are successful.

The text itself is treated with a sensitivity, humanism and humour that makes the characters relatable and modern despite the archaic text. Credit where credit is due to director and actors for translating both language and social convention of the original setting.

Both Marianne and Eleanor are played with a sensitivity that inspires sympathy and pride in equal measure as they are confronted with the challenges of their lives. Their gravitas is provided a suitable foil by the whimsy of a host of uncharacteristically well-developed smaller characters. The supporting cast are chameleon, playing parts ranging from high strung matriarchs to pointer hounds, all with a high energy humour and frivolity that only deepens the contrast with the Dashwood’s plight.

Strangely enough some of the most compelling and evocative effects are achieved outside of characterization. The lighting is used not only in the standard environmental sense but also in a host of novel ways to create seemingly concrete structure that complements the pared down set. Every opportunity is taken to inspire laughter, with not a scene change or seemingly innocuous line of dialogue not being taken advantage of. Staging and set work provide endless delights with props used as sight gags that take full advantage of the text. Whilst for the most part it is a suitable accoutrement to the main drama, these comic asides at times seem to overshadow the unfolding narrative as the show progresses.

The sugar candy colour palette, 70s musical interludes and deadpan delivery of absurdity all act to express the original intended aesthetic of the text with an irony that makes it translatable to a modern audience not subject to the typical stuffiness associated with productions of Austen’s work. Soft, sweet and easy to eat with just a hint of pathos – this is Wes Anderson meets classic British literature.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

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