Emma, Dedham Players

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austin is one of the world’s most popular authors, more so because of the countless adaptations of her novels, mainly Pride and Prejudice. So, it’s no surprise that Dedham Players have a sell out show on their hands with Michael Bloom’s concise adaptation of Emma.

And what a delight the production proved itself to be, true to the text and spirit of Austin, bringing her characters, (I would argue her strongest aspect), to vivid life.

Our heroine, Emma, considers herself a matchmaker, but she is the last person to realise she is way off the mark with her matches, and unaware of the love that is under her nose.

It all took part on an excellent set designed by David Thompson, a simple effect of books and trees that had Austin’s words scripted onto them, and the free space allowed director Claire Nicholson to pace the production perfectly, all twenty three scenes moving seamlessly into each other, with effective music choices.

And what a cast.

As Emma Woodhouse, Danielle Tile captured perfectly the misplaced eagerness of the character, her niceness, and also her folly. Barely offstage, her vocal qualities and engagement with the audience kept us gripped throughout.

Kevin Hastings-Smith is a delight as her hypochondriac father, constantly worrying about damp, and Bella Grylls is lively and hugely enjoyable as Emma’s friend, Harriet. Paul Reed is excellent as Mr. Knightly, the love of Emma’s life, if only she would realise it, his voice crystal clear. In fact, the cast do an excellent job with the exposition, and a host of lively characters are brought to life by the likes of Jenni Horn, Mike Cook and Brian Malone. In truth though, there isn’t really a weak link in the cast, every character is clear in realisation.

Beautifully costumed, this was a gem of a production that made me curse the Dedham Players productions I had missed prior to this one. I intend to not make that mistake again.