Since word has been out for over 200 years I won’t spoil anybody’s enjoyment of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park by revealing that, in the end, Fanny gets her man. However, it is much to the credit of Tim Luscombe’s crisp new version of the tale that we are kept intrigued throughout and the highest praise is to say that, while we all know that there is a book in the background, we remain unaware of it.
Kristin Atherton, Ffion Jolly and Pete Ashmore in Mansfield Park at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds Photo: Mike Kwasniak
A company of eight, sensitively directed by Colin Blumenau, brings to life the stratagems of the Prices, Bertrams and Crawfords as Fanny finds her feet in the microcosm that is Mansfield Park. Kit Surrey’s delightfully simple angled grey pergolas and steps permit the swift and effective passage of many years and several venues in a two-hour glass.
Ffion Jolly is a charming, quietly feisty Fanny much put upon by the insensitive Mrs Norris in the overbearing voice of Karen Ascoe. Domestic violence is not a new phenomenon. Richard Heap plays Sir Thomas and Mr Price and brings a real sense of financial power to the former. Pete Ashmore manages to make Edmund Bertram a thoroughly engaging young man while completely avoiding any mawkishness in the process. Samuel Collings is impressive as the charismatic but flawed Henry while Geoff Arnold (in his professional debut) is outstanding as the weak-willed Tom, the comic dullard Mr Rushworth and the nicely straightforward William Price. Kristin Atherton as Mary Crawford and Betsey Price smoulders fetchingly as the former while Leonie Spilsbury as Maria Bertram and Susan Price completes the ensemble in style.