Monday, July 15, 2019

Sense and Sensibility by The Pantaloons - a review

A couple of summers ago, I was delighted by my first experience of a 'Pantaloons' production, (a humorous and clever presentation of Pride and Prejudice), and so this week, I was very much looking forward to their own special take on another of my favourite Jane Austen novels, this time Sense and Sensibility.  And I'm pleased to report that I was not disappointed. 

First and foremost, I have to commend the cast on their ability to put the audience completely at ease from the start, so that we are immediately caught up in the atmosphere and feeling we are part of the show. Regular interaction with so many members of the audience makes for a special and unique experience!  As we all gradually arrived and made ourselves comfortable with our picnic rugs and folding chairs, and well before the performance had begun, the actors were in amongst us, welcoming and chatting to as many as possible. They even improvised an amusing song, sparked by asking some of us about our jobs, and this started the laughter and managed to set the relaxed and inclusive tone of the evening.  

This wonderful audience integration continued as the play unfolded, and they frequently brought the action off the stage and down amongst us - even cheekily sneaking a stray sausage roll or sip of wine too, as they passed among the audience! I have never felt so much a part of a production as I have when watching the Pantaloons. 

I must compliment them all on their improvisation skills. When involving the audience in this way, I suspect each performance is slightly different and that you have to be prepared for unexpected answers or unforeseen incidents and be ready to react! The Pantaloons can confidently take a response from the audience, or even a mistake by one of their cast members, and roll with it, to turn it into an ongoing joke for the remainder of the evening. 

As you can probably tell, this production is a highly entertaining adaptation of Jane Austen’s already witty and rewarding novel.  The Pantaloons focus on the comedic aspects of the characters and storyline, which creates the light-hearted tone they are trying to achieve - I do find that the humour and satire in Austen is toned down in some television or film adaptations, so I particularly enjoy performances that enhance the comedy.

Whilst they celebrate the humour, I still found that they manage to remain sufficiently faithful to the original text and to Jane Austen's style. There are clever nods to other Austen novels, and as an ardent fan, I loved to listen out for these.  (I especially liked the extra storyline played out between Mrs Jennings and Sir John’s dogs, all of whom are named after characters in Pride and Prejudice!)

I noticed a few modern twists here and there, in character portrayal and in aspects of the storyline, but these are handled sensitively and must only add to the enjoyment, in particular, of younger audience members and of newcomers to Austen.  The production is fun and approachable for all; I am sure that there will be something in the performance for each and every one of us to take away, with pleasure, at the end of the evening.

In fact, I attended this wonderful performance of Sense and Sensibility with one of my oldest friends, Becky, who is a Jane Austen novice!  Here are her thoughts on the evening:-  

Becoming a ‘Janeite’ - part 2!

After thoroughly enjoying being 'dragged along' to my first Austen experience last year, when I was asked by Sophie to accompany her again, I actually jumped at the chance!  This time it was Sense and Sensibility by the Pantaloons. 
It was a lovely summer's evening and the setting was beautiful, perfect for my second instalment of Jane Austen education. 

Not knowing the plot at all, I panicked slightly when Sophie described it as ‘more complex’ than Pride and Prejudice. With only four cast members, would I be able to decipher the plot and distinguish the characters??  I need not have worried. With the Pantaloons' fantastic mannerisms and minute costume changes, I found the plot easy to follow and really engaging. 

Above all, I enjoyed the humour - satire is a word I have heard associated with Austen and this was definitely delivered. That, coupled with great interaction and audience participation, I found the whole evening highly entertaining and felt it was the brilliant cast that made this production so successful. It is one thing to deliver a witty line well, but another to be amusing in your own right and the four cast members were just that. 

Outstanding evening, would highly recommend. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐