emma cast


Malvern Theatres


Match . . . Elite . . . Find Love Now . . . Zoosk – today dating websites abound to help the lonely find companionship and partners.

In the early 19th Century, in the world of Jane Austen, the possibilities for women to find a husband were more restricted. Emma Woodhouse, the eponymous heroine in Jane Austen’s novel, sets out to provide a match-making service to the community as a personal form of entertainment.

Emma thinks she understands herself and the characters of others well and that she is therefore well-placed to match couples in the neighbourhood, but the reality is that she does not initially understand herself very well, and she makes some blunders in trying to match others unsuitably. She is guilty of playing with other’s feelings and manipulating them insensitively.

However, her character is in no way malign. She intends well and feels appropriately shameful when she realises her mistakes and how they have caused distress for others. Combined with her lively personality this fundamental desire for others to be happy mean that we can like her as well as laugh at her indiscretions.

Adapting a long novel for the stage represents a challenge which Tim Luscombe has met with great success. The cast of nine is sufficient to provide the variety of characters and covers the principal ones to tell the story.

The design by Libby Watson is excellent. The choice of an abstract design enables easy switches of location – from living room, to hilltop, to street and common, the design is adaptable with clever use of lighting. The circular theme provides a sense of the narrow social circle of a small town or village community. Simplicity and subtlety of lighting make the visual impact very strong.

This is used most effectively for the curtain call.

Knightly and Emma

 Phillip Edgerley as Mr Knightley and Bethan Nash as Emma. Pictures: Mark Douet

From the outset Bethan Nash is a lively and characterful Emma at the heart of the action. She has a charming vigour, so that her mischievous meddling in Harriet’s relationships and feelings do not alienate us. She uses her voice and facial expressions very effectively.

Philip Edgerley is a strong Mr Knightley. He shows a clear awareness of Emma’s mischief and mistakes, and rebukes her firmly when necessary, as when she is mean to Miss Bates. He could however give stronger hints that he equally finds her vivacity amusing and alluring. He manages the awkward proposal very well at the end.

Polly Misch plays Harriet in her first professional role and portrays the naivety and simplicity very well. Her childish giggles and vulnerability are convincing.

Other characters enrich the social tapestry: Nicholas Tizzard combines the roles of the fussy, self-absorbed Mr Woodhouse with his preoccupation with gruel, and the laughable Mr Elton who provides gentle comedy especially with his absurd proposal. The extremely proud and assertive Mrs Elton is strongly portrayed by Hannah Gensius, George Kemp is a wonderfully handsome Frank Churchill who is the flatterer and the cad who turns out all right in the end.

The Production Exchange have brought a very elegant production by Colin Blumenau to Malvern this week. We are transported to a society where class and social mores are very strongly delineated and the comedy is sophisticated and gentle. ‘Everybody has their level!’ To 01-07-17

Tim Crow


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