Review – Love and Friendship

January 25, 2014 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩   Delicious trifle

Bedlam Theatre
Tue 21 Jan, 2014
Review by Thom Dibdin

Brimming with overplayed emotions and inappropriate attitudes, Laura Witz’ adaptation of Jane Austen’s early epistolary novel – Love and Freindship – is an utter treat.

Calum Martin, Grace Knight, Florence Bedell-Brill and James Stewart. Photo © Frances Hetherington.

Calum Martin, Grace Knight, Florence Bedell-Brill and James Stewart.
Photo © Frances Hetherington.

Here, in an atmosphere of rarified romantic attraction, bosoms must heave, men are either handsome heroes or dastardly villains and there is no quarter from cliché as the elderly Laura (Orla Murray), relates her sorry story.

Such is the level of cynical pastiche that this could easily be mistaken for a Monty Python parody of popular romantic fiction. Instead, however, it is Austen herself who provides both story and satire. Although for some reason the production corrects her misspelling of the title.

Witz sensibly holds back from overdoing the mockery. There is easily enough comedy in the writing itself without it needing to be underlined. Although she is happy to insert a few great lines of her own in her filleting of Austen’s original.

While Murray reads out Laura’s letters – sent to the young daughter of one of childhood friends – Laura’s succession of doomed romantic attractions are played out in great style by a strong quartet of actors on a bare set with only a few chairs and boxes of stage furniture.

Grace Night takes the lead role of young Laura and, although she loses concentration on the odd occasion, she provides a suitably gullible character around which the rest of the production can turn.

Crucially, Night is a natural for the breathless sensibility to which her character succumbs at the slightest hint of friendship with another of the female sex.

Playing (most) of the other female parts, Florence Bedell-Brill swings brilliantly from vulnerable punctiliousness in Laura’s mother, to the tight-lipped superciliousness of the mother of her first love, Edward. And on, to the swoon-on-sight tenderness of her new best friend, Sophia, whose swooning will ultimately lead to her singularly romantic demise.

Calum Martin is wonderfully foppish as Laura’s first love and – quickly – her husband: Edward. And convinces in a variety of subsidiary roles when called upon.

But it is James Stewart who really steals this, playing the majority of the minor male characters. Principally he is Edward’s best friend, Augustus, but his ability to transform between roles is remarkable.

Indeed, despite quite a few rough edges and minor mistakes, there is a great sense of purposefulness to the production. And an easy familiarity with the text which allows any slightly wayward moments to be covered.

All told, a joyful, irreverent piece of theatre which, from this single outing during the Bedlam’s January festival, still has plenty more to deliver. It would make an excellent fringe production or as part of a darker one-act in a double bill.

Running time 50 mins
Run ended.
Bedlam Theatre, 11b Bristo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 1EZ
Details of Charotte Productions on their website: www.charlotteproductions.org

ENDS

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