REVIEWS

Young Cast provide a feast for the eyes. Marion Cox, Dorset Echo.

  Dramatising classic works is proving to be a winning formula for the Dorset Corset Theatre Company and Jane Austen’s light-hearted appraisal of the 18th century Gothic novel becomes a superb piece of theatre in their latest production.

Six actors, who also provide live background music, take the audience to meet Bath’s polite society where along with handsome heroes and pretty girls, there are liars, cynics and fortune hunters.

A young cast make a splendid job of a tight script which pinpoints with deadly accuracy the foibles and fancies of the characters as youthful innocence is brought into conflict with some of the raffish standards of the day.

Kate Colebrook is a delight as the guileless Catherine whose habit of mixing up fact and fiction lead her into all kinds of emotional minefields, while a brace of good-looking actors in the form of Jonathan Niton and Harvey Robinson help make the play a feast for the eyes.

A simple but effective set and crisp dialogue that beautifully replicates Austen’s narrative all go to make this a memorable and exciting piece of live theatre.

The brainchild of the talented Helen Davis, who not only writes the script but takes two of the leading roles, this bright young company is clearly going places with this latest tour which returns to Dorset when it performs for two nights in Portland…

 

Northanger Abbey - Dorset Corset on tour. Gay Pirrie-Weir Blackmore Vale Magazine

HAPPILY co-inciding with the interest in television’s Lost in Austen, Dorset Corset Theatre Company’s production of Northanger Abbey is on a 26 venue tour of the region.

Performed in the company’s signature style incorporating live music, choreography and physical theatre with fine acting, this is the third adaptation of a classic novel. Last year’s Far From the Madding Crowd established a firm fan-base, and they won’t be disappointed by this vibrant version of the story of Catherine Morland, a girl from the country taken to Bath for the season by her wealthy aunt.Teenage girls have always loved overheated romances - from Catherine’s beloved Mysteries of Udolpho to present-day soaps. And our heroine is so taken up in the words of Mrs Radcliffe that she imposes the standards of the novel onto the new people she meets. She is rapidly taken in by the excitable and effusive Isabella Thorpe, but does manage to see through her overbearing brother John. She falls for Henry Tilney, but casts his father, General Tilney, into a villainous role straight from the pages of Udolpho. The story is a charming satire at the same time as a warning call that not all is as it seems.   Catherine’s new acquaintances are   social climbers and a despotic old man who has married for money, and thinks his children should do the same. But it all comes right in the end.

Helen Davis, who founded Dorset Corset with fellow drama school student Ed Burnside, has adapted Jane Austen’s book with skill and delight, and the cast of six are perfectly balanced as they bring it all to life. Kate Colebrook, making her professional debut in the leading role, has just the right combination of fear, expectation and glee, and Jonathan Niton, who joined DC last year as Sgt Troy, again impresses as the witty, quirky and loveable Henry Tilney. The handsome Harvey Robinson, until recently a student with the Exeter based Cygnet Theatre, captures both the arrogance of Capt Tilney and the puzzled infatuation of James Morland, and Kerry Steed   subtly indicates the fear that the Tilney children have for their irascible father. He is played with crusty venom by Ed Burnside, who is also spectacularly nasty as John Thorpe. Adaptor Helen Davis relishes the role of Isabella, a woman given to a gushing effusiveness that masks a scheming and entirely selfish nature.

The clever set allows the simplest props to be used to great effect.    

 

Corsets’ play a perfect fit. Keren Easterbrook, Express and Echo, Exmouth.

If The Dorset Corset Theatre Company are at a venue near you – then make an effort to see them. This comedy-melodrama was vibrant and exciting. Every Jane Austen fan would have been pleased at the ingenious naivety of Catherine, played by Kate Colebrook in her professional stage debut, and Henry’s (Jonathan Niton) kindly teasing of her and his sister. Harvey Robinson was first-rate in the dual roles of loveable but gullible James Morland and disdainfully arrogant Captain Tilney. Kerry Steed’s portrayal of Mars Allen came from the Alison Steadman school of acting (fun, but mercifully short!), her interpretation of Eleanor Tilney was pitched just right. Ed Burnside produced a fine assortment of characters in his multiple roles of the odious John Thorpe, the proud and overbearing General Tilney and the kindly Rev Morland. This was my first visit to the Blackmore, but I hope, if this is the standard on offer, not my last.

 

Northanger Abbey. Bridgwater Arts Centre. Harry MottramWestern Daily Express

 

Jane Austen’s story of snobs, love and gothic piles was neatly distilled into an evening’s entertainment by the delightfully named The Dorset Corset Theatre Company. Except in Northanger Abbey, no bodice ripping takes place. Instead there’s a series of misunderstandings and misrepresentations that keep Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney’s on-off romance bubbling along to the last moment.

The real triumph of the production was Helen Davis’s adaption of the complex novel to the required simplicity of a stage play. Cutting through page upon page of Austen’s description the company’s creative driving force kept the focus on Catherine’s vision of the world. We see her desire to make a good impression with the Tilney’s and the Thorpes, her immediate rejection of John Thorpe and her obcession with Gothic novels and in particular Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho. It led to an easy to follow story filled with many short scenes of sparkling dialogue, much humour and a neo slapstick style. The only criticism was the length of the story meant none of the scenes were able to develop too far before the necessity of getting onto the next chapter and what happened next. Without chopping the original novel down to a short story it had by necessity be directed at a breathtaking pace by Ed Burnside and Helen Davis.

Kate Colebrook was perfectly naïve and impressionable for the role of hormonally high Catherine. Jonathan Niton hit the clerical spot as her love interest Henry. Ed Burnside was good value in several roles including the naughty John Thorpe. Harvey Robinson was a handsome Captain Tilney and Kerry Steed had the right sympathy and sensitivity as Eleanor Tilney. Helen Davies in particular caught the eye with her energetic portrayal of Isabella Thorpe and the batty Mrs Morland.

A simple yet effective set using a series swing door backdrops and first class lighting from Jessica Mullins gave this production real class.

Tonight the play is at the Royal Manor Theatre in Portland, and is at Bristol’s Redgrave Theatre on November 3. For fans of Jane Austen, it is certainly worth slipping into an empire line gown for.

 

 

 

Company

Catherine Morland..........................................Kate Colebrook

John Thorpe/Rev Morland/General Tilney.….Ed Burnside

Isabella Thorpe/Mrs Morland…..…………......Helen Davis

Henry Tilney..........................……………........Jonathan Niton

James Morland/Captain Tilney/M.O.C/Butler..Harvey Robinson

Eleanor Tilney/Mrs Allen.................................Kerry Steed  

 

Creative Team

Co-Directors ………………. ………………...Ed Burnside and Helen Watts

Writer/Musical Direction …………………......Diane Fullbrook

Choreography and Movement direction...….Ben Redfern

Production Assistant...…………………….....David Lockwood

Lighting Designer/Technical Manager …......Jess Mullins

Producer ……………………………………....Fiona Davis

Marketing......................................................Beryl Burnside

Costume Design/realization ………………...Amanda Spenn

Set Design/realisation………………………..Brian Watts

Set Construction …………………………… .Bill Davis

 

 

Thanks to:

 Alison Thea Skot for understudying Isabella Thorpe/Mrs Morland

Brian Watts for Understudying Music

Pam Goodall and Jan Klakus at “Glad Rags”,

 

Graphic Design by Nick Carn   purplepixel.com

Reality and fantasy...

 

Catherine Morland  is hopelessly addicted to Mrs Radcliffe's lurid and macabre gothic novel'The Mysteries of Udolpho'.   In Bath   she   falls for the witty Henry Tilney whose family invite her to the dark and sinister Northanger Abbey.   Excited by the prospect   she readily accepts,   but   is she any safer there? At Northanger Abbey Catherine's over-active imagination   causes her two worlds to collide as fantasy gets in the way of reality. Can she separate the two?

© 2014 Dorset Corset Theatre Company
 

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