Lighting up the gloom with a real Austen classic

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Emma - King Edward and Queen Mary School, St Annes

Chapterhouse Theatre Company lit up a gloomy Lytham evening with a measured and entertaining performance of the Jane Austen favourite Emma.

A record attendance of 250 for the opening night of the summer season fully justified the decision to transfer the production from outside at a dripping Lytham Hall to the classical lines of the KEQMS Hall.

Clara Edmonds, at first full of cool precision and detachment, moved in the finale to a woman of affection and humanness – a fine performance hers, characterised by exemplary diction.

The projecting stage, so close to a capacity audience, gave the show an intimate feel, much helped by Laura Turner’s skilled adaptation of the third person of the novel to the first person of the stage characters.

Vicky Album, all frenetic gestures and fruitcake, was thoroughly comical as Miss Bates, Grace Smith suitably pouty and flighty as Harriet and Samantha Hopkins nicely difficult as Jane Fairfax. Helen Fullerton, always calm amidst the romantic intrigues, made up a strong female quintet.

James Beedham, Adam Grayson and Liam Weston, all with admirable stage presence, ensured that Emma is not just for the girls, each combining a commanding tone with moments of well-timed humour.

The audience lapped it up, quickly forgetful of Danny Welbeck being in action and the lack of bird song and trees.

They will certainly return to see the impressive Chapterhouse, here making their Fylde coast debut, in outdoor action.