Mansfield Park - Theatre Royal
The opening night of Tim Luscombe's adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park was bursting with flirtation and fun from start to finish.
Although it is arguably one of the lesser known Austen novels, Mansfield Park should not be underestimated.
Bossy aunts, beautiful girls, money, heartbreak and wit combined with the dark undercurrent of the slave trade running throughout make this one of her meatiest.
The protagonist, quiet Fanny Price, is sent away from her family to live with her aunt and uncle at Mansfield Park to grow up with her cousins. The novel follows her as she observes those around her, falls in love and tries to stay true to her own convictions.
The production is now on its second national tour following its success in 2012.
Directed by Colin Blumenau, Luscombe's adaptation was fast-moving and had the audience laughing out loud throughout, which is testament to his adaptation of a novel peppered with Austen's wit into a live performance.
The minimalist set designed by Kit Surrey doubled as everything from a house to a carriage, to a woods, to a dockyard, and took nothing away from the people of the play.
Luscombe took the ridiculous characters that make this novel and had fun with them. A lot of fun. With several actors playing multiple parts the strength of Austen's characters shone through.
Geoff Arnold played the hedonistic Tom Bertram, had the audience giggling at the stumbling Mr Rushworth and gunning for the ambitious William Price.
Ffion Jolly's Fanny Price came as calm among the chaos of the huge personalities of the other characters.
The staging would often see her alone, observing those around her - as in the book the reader could put themselves in her shoes, so too could the audience.
Jolly showed Fanny as quiet and reserved, but with a strength of will and mind that grew throughout the performance. Hers was not a simpering, preaching push over, but a strong independent young woman who knows her own mind.
Those hoping for the Austen essentials of at LEAST one ball and one elopement will certainly not be disappointed.
Whether you are a die-hard Austen fan (guilty) or if you have never before stepped foot into her bonneted social minefield world, I urge you not to miss out on one of the most entertaining adaptations I have seen.
The play runs at the Theatre Royal in Windsor until Saturday.