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Playing Jane

by on 8 September 2020

Parlour Games

Playing Jane 

by Rosina Filippi  

Amanda Root Company at Landmark Arts Centre, 4th and 5th September

Review by Erica White

What a huge pleasure it was to enter the Landmark Arts Centre in anticipation of seeing live theatre after being starved of culture during  the pandemic of 2020.  LAC opened its doors for the second time this summer.  Firstly to host three weekends of a well organised and socially distanced Fine Art and Sculpture exhibition.   Secondly, as a fund raising event, to offer local resident and actor, Amanda Root, the opportunity of producing a work recently rediscovered at the British Museum and republished in 2019. 

This was a collection of parlour plays put together by Rosina Filippi (1866-1930) who was an actress, director and feminist.  She was the first person to dramatise Jane Austen.  She was an actress, director and feminist so it is not surprising that she was drawn to Austen’s works, especially to the strong female characters Austen created.   Filippi eschewed the proscenium arch and stage, preferring minimal props and furniture so that her playlets could take place in drawing rooms. 

The three episodes Amanda Root, as director, chose to perform were well-known scenes from Pride and Prejudice and Emma, arguably two of Austen’s most popular novels.  The company performing at the LAC are mainly local professional actors, some of whom are known as neighbours or actors from stage and screen.   All performed without fee as their contribution to the Landmark Emergency Fundraising Appeal.

Appropriate music was provided on cello as the cast entered and circled around the acting area.  As an introduction to each scene, Amanda Root articulated Filippi’s theories on how performances should take place, “holding a mirror up to nature’.

The Proposal of Mr Collins, taken from Pride and Prejudice, is an episode that can never be forgotten.  Mr Collins that believes that no sensible girl needing to make a comfortable marriage could possibly reject his offer.  But this is exactly what strong and independent minded Eliza Bennet does, not once but three times.  Mrs Bennett, frantic to get her brood of five daughters well-settled, is furious with Elizabeth and we are left in no doubt that she will feel the lash of her mother’s tongue when Mr Collins retires with hurt pride.  Tim McMullan was Mr Collins personified, his long legs bending at the knee as he wheedled his way around the room after his prey.   Ingénue Kate Chambers ably countered his advances, showing her character’s strong personality.  Julia Webber was very much in command as the agitated and anxious Mrs B.

The second scene, The Reading of Jane Fairfax’s Letter, taken from Emma, was a tour de force by Felicity Duncan, who had the difficult task of portraying the garrulous Miss Bates scarcely drawing breath between one piece of news and the next.  Gaia Mondadori, as Emma Woodhouse delightfully let it be known to us how tiresome she finds her and can hardly contain herself long enough to hear the end of the letter.

In the final scene we returned to Pride and Prejudice to witness Lady Catherine’s Visit to the Bennet home where she interrogates Elizabeth about the rumour that she has accepted a proposal of marriage from Mr Darcy.  Lady Catherine de Burgh has always intended Mr Darcy as her own daughter’s husband and is not prepared to have her plans thwarted by a young woman whose social and relatives’ status is well below that of her own.  Elizabeth stands her own ground showing the strong mindedness that she showed to Mr Collins.  Lady Catherine was powerfully played by Abigail Cruttenden with haughty disdain for the task in hand.  Kate Chambers once again gave us a spirited performance as Elizabeth.

Beautifully costumed by wardrobe mistresses from Teddington Theatre Club and furnished and propped by local friends, the production was played in the round with the audience seated at socially distanced tables.  This was an evening of pure pleasure, which was warmly applauded by a very appreciative audience.

Amanda Root and all involved at the Landmark are to be congratulated for bringing us this enterprising endeavour.   Heartiest thanks you to you all.

Erica White, September 2020

Photography by Andrew Billington and LAC

From → Drama

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