Review: Manfield Park, Crucible Studio

Manfield Park, DEP, Crucible Studio: Fanny (Lara Bundock) reading alone whilst her richer relatives enjoy themselves
Manfield Park, DEP, Crucible Studio: Fanny (Lara Bundock) reading alone whilst her richer relatives enjoy themselves
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Valerie Mills directs DEP’s production of Jane Austen’s lesser known novel.

Thanks to a terrific cast and Austen’s wry and witty writing, Mills succeeds admirably in making MP as good as P&P or S&S. The main protagonists are cousins, Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram who are wonderfully played by Lara Bundock and Peter Geary. Edmund is incredibly kind but blissfully unaware of Fanny’s true feelings for him. Bundock shows great emotional restraint and intensity both in repressing and expressing her love while Geary confides in her with his romantic troubles. Cameo roles from the servants and maids are pivotal here in tying the scenes together with narration and often having the funniest lines. For example, the company are playing whist although Mrs Norris might be better off playing patience. Sloth and stupidity get it in the neck from Austen. Jan Ibberson revels in her laziness as Lady Bertram. She asks a servant to ring a bell to summon another servant who will pass her a book or plump up a pillow. Landed gentry also seem to become fatigued at the slightest exercise. When Robert Beard’s rich but dim Mr Rushworth makes his usual fatuous remark, his fiancée Kate Spivey’s Maria cheekily remarks, “How clever, did you think of that yourself?” The main theme of course is whether a single man earns enough to be worthy of marrying Lady Bertram’s daughter. She scoffs at Adam Booth’s Henry Crawford’s 1814, £4,000 annual spending power. An ironic quip since in 2014 this would be over £135,000.