First published in 1811 Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility revolves around sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood and their experiences with love and romance in 18th century England.

Oxford Theatre Guild brought this delightful adaptation by Jessica Swale to the Oxford Playhouse and what a sophisticated, if slightly long, evening we had!

Upon entering the auditorium we were presented with Jacqui Lewis’s space-filling set with its towering windows suspended in mid-air and roman style columns either side. Having nearly all of the portions of the set attached to the Playhouse’s Fly System allowed the operators to pull in sections of walls and windows for swift set changes. For me the set looked a little busy to the eye and I felt the curtains suspended behind the pieces of scenery where a distraction to the action in the front of the stage. However by simply pulling in a new wall or window the action was efficiently transferred from house to cottage and even to the beach!

Oxford Theatre Guild have pulled together a strong cast. Hannah Brooks as Elinor Dashwood held the stage well with her outward common sense and inner emotional longing. Kate O’Connor contrasted ably with her free-spirted Marianne. There is much comedy in this adaptation and this was provided in spades by first-rate performances by Barbara Denton as Mrs Jennings and Paul Clifford as Sir John. Elinor and Marianne’s younger sister Margaret, played brightly by Helen Kavanagh, also adds plentiful humour to the action.

Elinor’s dashing love interest Edward Ferrars is played in a distinct Colin Firth style by Alistair Nunn. I enjoyed his performance very much along with Phillip Cotterill as Colonel Brandon and Robert Cole as the caddish Willoughby. Memorable performances by Ian Nutt and Layla Al-Katib as John and Fanny Dashwood and Colin Burnie as Perks made the evening all the more pleasurable.

Due to the frequent need for set changes good use was made of the cast to perform this, carrying on chairs and chaise lounge etc. However this began to be a touch drawn out at times especially when some of these changes where not accompanied by music. Also the pianoforte used in the play was extremely tall a and there were several times it blocked site lines to actors!

All in all an agreeable night in the hands of Jane Austen and the Oxford Theatre Guild. 4/5

Rob Hall