In Review

Persuasion review: a ‘frolicking, rollicking’ take on Jane Austen’s novel

This romcom is full of mischievous fun and is joyfully silly

In this bold updating, Jane Austen’s Persuasion becomes a “frolicking, rollicking romcom” that nails the contemporary “dating and mating game as sharply” as the original did in 1818, said Georgina Brown in the Daily Mail. Instead of “bonnets and decorous jigs to polite piano accompaniments”, it has “bikinis, full-on snogging and robotic dancing” to the likes of Robyn, Nicki Minaj and Dua Lipa. And the story plays out not in staid Bath drawing rooms but on a raised rectangular platform that “functions as a disco, catwalk, foam-flooded bubble-party” – and as a rostrum from which the high-handed heroine, Anne, can shove off any character who becomes too tiresome. It’s a “hoot”, and it had me “totally persuaded”. 

Full of “mischievous fun”, Jeff James and James Yeatman’s adaptation demonstrates that Austen was “far ahead of her time”, said Marianka Swain in The Daily Telegraph. And it is aided by some top-notch acting. Sasha Frost and Fred Fergus – as Anne and her ex-fiancé Captain Wentworth – “convey a complex history and sincere depth of feeling during their agonising, slowburn reconciliation”. Matilda Bailes, who plays both Anne’s spoilt sister Elizabeth and her love rival Louisa Musgrove, is “exceptional” in her stage debut, said Miriam Gillinson in The Guardian. And Helen Cripps and Dorian Simpson raise plenty of laughs as the sniping married couple Mary and Charles – and the “wacky dancing is practically an extra character in its own right”. This is a “joyfully silly” take on Persuasion, but with “just enough sense (and sensibility) to hold the whole thing together”.

I also found it silly – but, alas, “childishly” so, said Quentin Letts in The Sunday Times. There’s “bad language”, a garish design, and “thudding” disco music so loud I sometimes struggled to hear the dialogue. Yet it seemed to me that even in its “most frivolous moments”, the adaptation “retains an emotional core” of truth that honours Austen’s creation at the same time as it reinvents it with “delirious” wit, said Neil Norman in the Daily Express. “Irreverent it may be, disrespectful it is not.”

Rose Theatre, Kingston, until 19 March, then tours until 14 May.

Recommended

A weekend in Dublin
The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey at Temple Bar in Dublin
The big trip

A weekend in Dublin

Aston Martin DBX707: the fastest production SUV on sale
Aston Martin DBX707
Expert’s view

Aston Martin DBX707: the fastest production SUV on sale

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: events, festivals and street parties
Jubilee Street Party
In Focus

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: events, festivals and street parties

23 magnificent hotels to discover in 2022
TheHotel Terrestre swimming pool, which is outside in the sun
In Focus

23 magnificent hotels to discover in 2022

Popular articles

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths
Vladimir Putin has previously deployed ‘extreme measures’ to crush opposition
Why we’re talking about . . .

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths

Nato vs. Russia: who would win?
Nato troops
In Depth

Nato vs. Russia: who would win?

The Week Footer Banner