'Sense and Sensibility' by Jane Austen with adaptation by Kate Hamill
Presented by the Saint John Theatre Company, Saint John, New Brunswick
Saint John Theatre Company’s latest offering was Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Presented on the Imperial theatre stage, this production headed by Sandra Bell is not your run-of-the-mill Austen. It’s a quick and snappy take on a classic. Under Bell’s direction, the company aptly moves from scene to scene and character to character.
I have to confess that Sense and Sensibility is the Austin novel I’ve never read. Because I wasn’t familiar with the source material, I feel like I was a little behind from the start of the show. This isn’t the fault of the team behind this production; rather it sits squarely on the shoulder of adapter Kate Hamill. This issue could have been easily corrected by making better use of the gossips at the top of the show. That aside this Sense and Sensibility is truly a delight.
The Dashwood sisters were masterfully portrayed by Emily Bartlett (Elinor), Pippa Wennberg (Marianne), and Madison Lucas (Margaret). Each was both charming and relatable, and spit out the dialogue clearly and with mind-numbing speed. The love interests of the elder sisters were just as charming in the hands of Winluck Wong (Edward Ferrars), Peter Boyce (John Willoughby), and Dewayne Keating (Colonel Brandon).
The cast is well-rounded with several supporting characters. CC Humphries needs to be highlighted because not only did he take on several characters but did so by also manipulating his voice. Thus making each of his characters (Sir John Middleton, Doctor, and Thomas Palmer) visually and audibly distinct.
One of the challenges the script presented was jumping from one location to the next with only a few lines of dialogue between scene changes. The use of a few chairs, tables, a bench, door frames, and windows (all of which were on wheels) made these jumps from one scene to the next seamless. The only issue was the sound created by castors on the tables, chairs, and bench. The company couldn’t deliver their lines while they zipped from one spot to the next for the noise caused by the castors. That aside the use of these simple set pieces was put to great use and made each location distinct.
Sense and Sensibility was a delightful night at the theatre and a gem as part of the Saint John Theatre Company’s season. It is a production that is distinct from Austin’s original work but still conveys her sense of charm and class.
The production has now closed.