Emma, Adrian Preater’s stage adaptation of Austen’s novel, is a wonderful example of just how fabulous local theatre can be. The production, which has just finished its tour around the UK, was quaint, witty and perfectly paced.
Emma follows the story of a woman who delights in match-making, but is really quite bad at it. Hotbuckle have deftly managed to capture the essence of Emma in their production, following on well from their very successful adaptation of Persuasion (you can see my review for Persuasion here: https://harriwords.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/review-persuasion-on-tour/).
Rather than using a large set and cast, the company used a simplistic, quaint and very versatile set, and only four actors. This added hugely to the production’s authenticity, drawing the audience in and engaging them from start to finish.
As with Persuasion, I really enjoyed the live music in this production. Played by the actors themselves, the music added a huge level of atmosphere. There were even sound effects for the horse and carriage!
Emma really did prove to me the value of smaller productions. You don’t need the epic proportions of the West End to have a great show – I thoroughly enjoyed Emma; it was easy to watch, quick-witted and cleverly done.
As far as casting goes, the four actors to appear in Emma were all very impressive. The production played off all of their strengths: Adrian Preater was charismatic and humorous in all of his many roles (including Mr Woodhouse, Mrs Bates and many others).
Emily Lockwood was a fabulous Emma and engaged the audience extremely well. She made the character of Emma simultaneously very likable and a little ridiculous – the perfect combination.
Peter Randall played a large amount of characters, including Mr Knightley. He was the ideal Austen gentleman, bringing some rather dashing characters to light and, again, played off the wit in Austen’s novel.
Clare Harlow displayed extremely impressive versatility, playing nearly all of the female roles within the play. She went from being stern to silly in the space of a second, and made multi-rolling look easy.
I was very impressed by this production of Emma. I said of Persuasion that it was ‘everything that an Austen adaptation ought to be,’ and I can only say the same for Emma. I cannot wait to see their next adaptation.