Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Nonsense and Sensibility review at Above the Arts, London – ‘flimsy, undemanding fun’

Stella Taylor and Henri Merriam in Nonsense and Sensibility at Above the Arts, London. Stella Taylor and Henri Merriam in Nonsense and Sensibility at Above the Arts, London.

Anonymous is a Woman Theatre Company’s production of Tom Crawshaw’s new play Nonsense and Sensibility is part of Women in the West End, a three-week celebration of female creativity –  which is, of course, the ideal place to showcase a male playwright. This odd programming choice aside, there’s undemanding fun to be had from Nonsense and Sensibility, slight and unapologetically silly as it is.

While the idea of a multi-character play being performed by a couple of inept but enthusiastic amateurs is far from original, after a stilted start, the play wrings some decent laughs out of mocking Austen’s social mannerisms and throwing in anachronistic touches in what is supposedly a reading of her undiscovered play. But it goes for the easy, obvious targets, missing the scalpel sharpness of Austen’s own writing. And when a canon of literature is so embedded in cultural context that it’s already had zombies and sea monsters thrown at it, there’s a limit on anything fresh you can do.

Likeable performances, however, make the show impossible not to warm to. Henri Merriam as the buttoned up scholar and Stella Taylor as her flaky actress school friend display considerable charm and chemistry. They are as believable as they need to be in their main personas while clearly having an awful lot of fun camping it up as various ‘Austen’ characters.

Director Bips Mawson keeps the thing rattling along, and, at a mere 45 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome. But overall, this feels little more than a piece of forgettable fringe fluff.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Flimsy and farcical Janeite romp carried by energetic and engaging performances