Persuasion (with dancing)

Anne lies face down on top of two massive blue rectangular slabs separated by a thin yellow strip of light. Around the edge sits a circle of  speakers, professional lighting, trailing wires – a club, a gig, a theatre performance? Actors emerge from the audience.

Towards the end of the first half, Frank Ocean’s Super Rich Kids plays over a foam party. This is Jane Austen’s Persuasion relocated to a present day where sex and money rule and the elite live in their private bubbles. There are men who don’t only want beauty and youth, and the audience laughs knowingly.  Super rich, but a reflection of both our celebrity and youth obsessed world and the elite country house owners of the early nineteenth century.

It’s Anne Elliot’s story. She’s in control at first, dismissing people when she’s had enough of their dialogue by physically turning them away. Then Wentworth arrives from her past, and as he falls for her cousin, Anne struggles to stay in control of her own world. Two sisters repeat lines to keep themselves in the scene. Anne wades through the foam party fully clothed, isolated, different. It is Mr Elliot forcing himself on her that causes her to reject him.  Chararacters are well formed with some wonderful gender fluidity.

The concept, design and the world that is created through contemporary dance culture/music are all superb. But is Persuasion the right text for this production?  Yes and no. By comparing themes across 200 years, we see the similarities and paradoxes; the overall narrative arcs are perfect. But the dialogue itself jars. It’s got the wrong rhythm, a different sense of humour, the visual emotion is not fully reflected in what is said. The 200 year gulf opens, but it needn’t have done.

 

 

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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