13 May 2018

Sense and Sensibility stage play: It’s Austen, but not as you know it!

| Sophia Brady
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Actors Rashidi Edward and Caroline Mignone. Photo: Chris Herzfeld.

Mention the name ‘Jane Austen’ and for most people, it instantly invokes images of her well-loved period novels and subsequent movie adaptations featuring feisty female leads, romance and the beautiful English countryside.

The State Theatre Company South Australia’s return to Canberra Theatre Centre with Kate Hamill’s anarchically funny adaptation of the classic, Sense and Sensibility, in the Playhouse from 29th May is set to shake up everything we know and associate with Jane Austen.

Said to be gloriously oddball and a fun whirlwind of words, this high-octane Jane Austen version is described as ‘the greatest stage adaptation of this novel in history’. New York-based playwright Kate Hamill’s sparkling interpretation of Sense and Sensibility is described as ‘Jane Austen on theatrical steroids’. Austen’s masterpiece is a precision-guided literary missile of wit and warmth, and, in playwright Kate Hamill, she’s found her theatrical match, as verve and invention is brought to bear on the Dashwoods’ every move.

The newly widowed Mrs Dashwood, under much-reduced circumstances, must move herself and her three daughters, the very sensible Elinor; the wild, romantic Marianne and the spirited Margaret, from their grand family home to a modest cottage. But, reduced social circumstances do not lead to a reduction in troubles of the heart. Suitors circle and gossip swirls as all of the Dashwoods try to find their place in the world.

Artistic director Geordie Brookman says, “In the collision of Jane Austen and American actor/playwright Kate Hamill, we’ve found a piece that provides a limitless landscape for comedic invention while digging into the heart and soul of one of the Western canon’s great works.”

The State Theatre Company Ensemble brings together a strong cast, comprising of Anna Steen, Miranda Daughtry, Rachel Burke, Nathan O’Keefe, Rashidi Edward and Dale March.

Ahead of the production’s season in Canberra, we spoke to Congolese born actor Rashidi Edward, who plays the dashing suitor John Willoughby, about his character, the play and his plans for visiting the capital.

Rashidi said “In Sense and Sensibility I portray John Willoughby, who’s described as handsome by the other characters in the play. He’s charming, very confident, very smooth, and a big-time player.”

“When we first meet him, he is to inherit his cousin’s estate and fortune. So in a way, he’s wealthy, but when he’s disinherited he does anything and everything to be rich, which he believes will determine his happiness. I really like the fact that he doesn’t give up on his goal! I don’t fancy his deceitful nature and his selfishness (though I understand that we are all selfish at times in our own ways).”

As for what audiences can expect from this telling of the story, he revealed, “They can expect a thrilling, very fast-paced comedy. It’s hilarious, but also a very touching love story between the sisters AND their significant others as well.”

His favourite scene from the production, Rashidi shared is: “I think it would be the introduction of Willoughby. I love how he storms in carrying Marianne in his arms like this romantic hero. Love it!”

As a first time visitor to the city, he said: “I’m looking forward to seeing Parliament House and everything that Canberra has to offer.”

Photo: Chris Herzfeld.

To see everything Sense and Sensibility has to offer from the 29 May – 2 June 2018, visit the Canberra Theatre Centre website.

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