13-15 February 2017
Reviewed by Catherine Norris
Tim Luscombe’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Northanger Abbey is now playing at the Lichfield Garrick and I had the pleasure of seeing it yesterday evening.
Northanger Abbey tells the story of Catherine Morland, a bookworm, who tends to base her life on what she has read in her books – a favourite being Mysteries of Udolpho. When Catherine is invited to stay with her neighbours Mr & Mrs Allen in Bath, Catherine jumps at the chance, excited at the prospects of the mysteries which may unfold. Catherine’s excitement is soon replaced with dismay when she finds herself lonely and even her beloved books can only offer escapism for so long. Fortunately, Catherine meets and befriends Isabella Thorpe. The pair discover that their brothers James Morland and John Thorpe attend university together and are firm friends which secures their own friendship along with the realisation that both young women are avid readers and of course love Mysteries of Udolpho.
Catherine confides in Isabella that she would like to meet a young man and does not wish to be the only person without a dancing partner again. It is not long before Catherine meets Henry Tilney who she instantly develops feeling for. Catherine and Isabella, however, also bump into their brothers one afternoon, where Isabella’s brother John makes it clear that he is interested in Catherine and Isabella and Catherine’s brother James share a spark. The four plan to meet later that evening and John requests that Catherine dances with him.
Whilst Isabella and James appear to be getting on very well, it is clear that Catherine has no interest in John and only wants to be with Henry and his sister Eleanor. John is very angry about this and he and his sister try to prevent Catherine from meeting with the Tilney’s by lying and emotionally blackmailing her. With a planned walk ruined, Catherine stops by at the Tilneys’ to apologise and explain, only to be turned away by their father Mr Tilney. Mr Tilney, however, is soon informed by John Thorpe, of Catherine’s wealth and his own intentions to marry her due to this. This prompts Mr Tilney’s desire for Catherine as a wife for his own son and so he encourages the friendship between Catherine and his children Henry and Eleanor.
Catherine is invited to stay at Northanger Abbey with the Tilneys’ and of course the opportunity to stay at an old, dark, abbey with many a mystery to unfold is too hard to resist. Whilst staying at the abbey Catherine’s imagination gets the better of her and she receives an awakening lesson about the dangers of living her life as if it were a novel. Whilst away for a few days Mr Tilney bumps into John Thorpe again who informs him that he was wrong about Catherine Morland and she is not wealthy at all but in fact a needy and destitute pauper. Mr Tilney orders Catherine away from Northanger Abbey much to the upset of Eleanor. With Catherine back at home, upset and confused about what she did wrong she receives a visit from Henry Tilney, the two unravel the mystery and the story has a very happy ending.
The cast of this performance played remarkably well and cannot be faulted. The set was simple remaining the same throughout, with some adjustments to indicate changes in location. Being a relatively small cast, some cast members played more than one part and costumes remained the same for the most part. There was some confusion at times which these factors may have contributed to, as costume, actor and set could not always support comprehension. In addition, background music played throughout was a lovely component but a little too loud in parts and drowned out the actors.
Overall this was a very good show with incredibly strong performances by all actors and a superb story of at the heart. Northanger Abbey is a charming tale which is surprising funny throughout and very different from Jane Austen’s other work. I would certainly recommend this show.
Tickets cost from £20 to £23 (booking fees may apply).
Northanger Abbey is at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre until 15 February 2017. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 01543 412121.
Lichfield Garrick Theatre, Castle Dyke, Lichfield, WS13 6HR | 01543 412121