Kingston’s Rose receives Theatre Royal treatment as Jane Austen adaptation tours the country


Mansfield Park will run from October 22 – 26


By Harriet Davies

The UK’s last remaining Regency-era theatre will visit Kingston this year, bringing its adaptation of Jane Austen’s most controversial novel to London audiences.

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, the country’s only working Regency-era theatre, is taking its hit adaptation of the Austen novel to 11 theatres across the country, including Kingston’s the Rose.

The Mansfield Park cast and crew will appear at the Rose from October 22 to the 26, starring in a play that was adapted from the novel by Tim Luscombe. Colin Blumenau directs.

The production is part of Theatre Royal’s “Restoring the Repertoire” project, which aims to uncover smash-hit productions of the Georgian era and return them to authentic surroundings. The project has been underway for a number of years.

This follows a renovation of the theatre between 2005 and 2007, when its original features were restored to bring it back in line with designer William Wilkin’s vision in 1819. In a less glamorous period of its history, the theatre was for a while a barrel storage centre for Greene King.

Mr Blumenau, who is also artistic director at Theatre Royal, has been at the helm of the Restoring the Repertoire project, and said that with Mansfield Park, the aim was to produce a show that would already be well-known and draw audiences around the country.

“In these days of cutbacks and financial insecurity, it felt like an obvious thing for us to try and make a popular work which played to all of our strengths,” he said.

The book has not always been popular, though, according to the Jane Austen Centre, and regularly ranks as die-hard Austin fans’ least-favourite read.

Nevertheless, the novel has endured for two centuries, and this year’s Theatre Royal tour marks the 200th anniversary of its completion.

Their adaptation has received rave reviews in the national press, and had a hugely successful tour last year.

“This adaptation is so brilliant because it keeps both the narrative and the texture of the novel, despite losing so much of its contents,” added Mr Blumenau.

The final product did not come easily. It took Mr Luscombe three drafts, and plenty of cooperation between director and writer, before the duo hit on a version they were satisfied with.

The challenge of reducing a novel of some 100,000 words to a play of 23,000 words has been the hardest part of the production so far, said Mr Blumenau.

However, now the adaptation is complete and the crew are taking to the stage in locations around the country, the director gets to reap the benefit of their hard work.

“The enjoyable bit is always watching the actors begin to ‘own’ the text and develop their characterisations and relationships. It’s always a bit magical,” he says.

The show will form part of the Rose’s visiting productions programme, which includes works as diverse as Great Expectations and the sci-fi classic the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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