Far from the fuss of the city, Alexandra Palace and Rose Original Production staged an irresistibly modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Adapting a strong novel with detailed characters allowed the production to take some liberties and enjoy their space for interpretation. Without losing favour, they told the story of Anne, 27, engaged to her first love when she was 19. But her family persuaded her to break off the engagement because Wentworth didn’t have any money and uncertain prospects. After seven years, Wentworth came back victorious from the war with no wife at his arms. When his path crosses Anne’s again in Kellynch Hall, Wentworth and Anne have a second chance if only they can persuade themselves to love again.
The stage directions translate Austen’s spirit and wit admirably; they are bold and contemporary and render protagonist Anne’s inner dilemmas and her conflicting thoughts brightly. Forget the 18th century’s pianoforte and ballroom dances, in Alexandra Palace, ladies and gentlemen court on a soundtrack of Frank Ocean, Lizzo and Dua Lipa. Switching candlelight for neon colours and ball gowns for trendy dresses, 1817 has never been so far, yet so close. The cast is flirty and audacious, giving life to Austen’s ink and paper characters without any filters. They were funny and engaging, and half of the audience was ready to dance with them. You would be surprised how well a story of the regency fits with pop music bops.
The stage was simple and minimalist as a plastic curtain and moving platform created an artificial and malleable background. The simplicity of the set reflected the plasticity and hypocrisy of Austen’s world of courtship and marriage, yet at the same time it contrasted with the excessive embellishment of the Regency era. The play is visually pleasant, the lights are adding texture to the play and relief to the state and dynamism to the story. Overall, this set emphasised the honest and true moments of the characters in moments of self-reflection as they faced the life choices ahead of them.
If you have never been to Alexandra Palace, then Persuasion is the best excuse to visit. This adaptation is incredibly timeless. Balancing the seriousness and silliness as ingeniously as Jane Austen, and if she could use Cardi B to entertain her characters, she certainly would.
Persuasion is performing at Alexandra Palace until 30th April 2022 and tickets can be bought here.
Edited by Maisie Allen, Literature Editor