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Review of Sense and Sensibility by Stamford Shakespeare Company at Tolethorpe in Rutland





The adaptation of Jane Austen’s first ever novel was a mix of laughter, love and a reminder of how times and generations have changed.

For her era, Jane Austen was ahead of her time, defying the way women were perceived in society, and Jessica Swale’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility at the outdoor theatre in Tolethorpe reminded us of that.

It was my first time visiting an outdoor theatre, so I was not sure what the atmosphere would be like, how scene changes would be handled and how the actors would react to a sudden change in weather.

The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza
The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza

However, despite rain earlier in the day, the opening night on Tuesday (July 2) welcomed a sunny backdrop to match the countryside setting.

The tale begins at Norland Park, just after Mr Dashwood has died, leaving his wife and three daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret with no claim to their estate.

Sense and Sensibility can be seen at Tolethorpe in Rutland.
Sense and Sensibility can be seen at Tolethorpe in Rutland.
The stage for Sense and Sensibility at Tolethorpe.
The stage for Sense and Sensibility at Tolethorpe.

In the end it goes to Mr Dashwood’s son from a previous marriage John and his wicked wife Fanny, and the women are sent to Devonshire.

While in Devon, they encounter lessons about love and life, and how to navigate potential romantic relationships.

The themes that standout in this comedic yet thought provoking play were: sisterhood, love and a hint of naivety.

Marianne and Elinor in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza
Marianne and Elinor in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza

From the onset, the unbreakable bond between sisters is strong and is something that remains persistent throughout the play.

There is the youthful spirit of Margaret, played by Madeline Bicker, the extraordinary passion of Marriane, played by Estella Todisco, and the pragmatic approach of Elinor, played by Natasha Rose, that shine through as key personality traits for the sisters.

Marriane was a standout character solely on her passion for love and the arts, especially her fondness for poetry.

The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza
The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza
The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza
The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza

There was one point when she was reading Keates to her family, I found myself nearly joining in the applause from her onstage family.

Another standout character was Thomas the servant, played by Patrick Turnham. I didn’t know if there would be comedy within such a serious play, but Thomas brought laughter to me and other audience members.

At several points, Thomas would be seen carrying so many items that he could clearly not handle or being chased with a feather duster by another maid while the other characters were in conversation.

Thomas’s comedy made the play more engaging for me.

The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza
The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza

I was left startled with the entrance of Mrs Jennings, played by Yvonne Pini, and Sir John, played by Michael Hughes.

Their loud personas were again startling to start with, but they soon became big personalities within the setting and I thought they were a great addition.

Mrs Jennings also served as a key figure in showing us the difference in eras, such as a woman’s prime focus of finding a husband to secure their future, as well as the restrictions put upon women.

The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza
The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Ihsan Hamza

We got this reminder in one scene when Marianne and her admirer John Willoughby, played by Tom Heritage, were unaccompanied and kissed! There was a big gasp from the audience as it is simply not right that a woman should be alone with a man and kiss!

Costume choices by Miriam Spring Davies mirrored the Regent era, and also the personalities of the characters.

From the devilish purple of wicked Aunt Fanny to the innocent baby blue of young Margaret, it was clear to me colours of each character’s outfit were handpicked very well.

Although at times some scenes did feel longer than they perhaps should have been, the Stamford Shakespeare Company actors still guided us through the story well and made it easy to follow.

If the Jane Austen classic is something you want to see, purchase tickets at https://tolethorpe.co.uk/sense-and-sensibility/.

Other shows at Tolethorpe this summer are The Recruiting Officer and a Midsummer Night’s Dream

Sense and Sensibility is on until Saturday, July 20, and from Monday, August 5, until Saturday, August 24.



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