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Emma – still loved, centuries on
10 Oct 2015
by Dani Wozencroft

“Everybody has their level” said Mr Knightley – and at Theatre Severn the performance of Emma was on the highest level.

I’d imagined a stage of antique furniture, big floral dresses and the Queen’s English – but what I enjoyed in the Walker Theatre could not have been further from that. 

The intimacy of the venue, the simplicity of the stage and the utter brilliance of the script, which switched between dialogue and narrative, was captivating.

The Hotbuckle adaptation is one I’d not come across before, not expected. Lightning fast costume changes with the four actors playing numerous characters each, a simple stage decoration with curtain rail of clothes and adaptable furniture was nothing like what Jane Austen dreamt when she created the Woodhouse Estate at Hartfield (I imagine).

I’d gone to the theatre on the banks of the River Severn looking to complete my trilogy of Jane Austen love; book, TV and now stage. But what I came away with was a whole new love, a completely different view of the classic I knew so well.

There was humour and sadness in equal measure with excellent comedic timing. The effortless way the lines were delivered, switching between talking directly the the audience and snapping back into character, left me always wanting more.

At the interval, once we’d been swept through Emma’s matchmaking skills and the web she began to spin, I declared that she, played by Emily Jones, was my favourite character. I had no doubt she was the brilliance of the show.

But the second part saw each of the three other performers come into their own. The beauty of watching them display the depth of their talent made me love each of them – in fact, I kept changing who was my favourite until the very end when I decided it was simply a decision I could not make, each of them impressed and brought every character they played to life – along with the audience.

This is an excellent example of alternative theatre that thoroughly deserved the packed seats, belly moving laughter and rousing applause given. I had no idea I would be in for such a treat.

Well worth a watch and I’ll be watching out for more Hotbuckle (a Shropshire based company too!) performances in the future.