Northanger Abbey is a less well known story than some of Jane Austen’s other books – most famously Pride and Prejudice. However, given the Heartbreak Productions’ treatment, this familiar tale of the adventures a youthful female spirit in search of romance, friendship and fortune becomes as delightfully entertaining as any of her other frothy social satires.
All Heartbreak Shows are outdoors and rain never stops play, but this particular evening the weather was kind. The local Newcastle Heartbreak audience were there in force in beautiful Jesmond Dene, clustered around the stage with their picnics and their Prosecco.
The cast were already familiar faces as they were also performing Murder on the Terrace (on different evenings of course) which I had already seen, but they transformed into our Austen characters with seamless ease. Our charming heroine Katherine, played by Samantha Moorhouse, gets the opportunity to go into society in the elegant town of Bath, thanks to the patronage of Mrs Allen. The ebullient Mrs Allen, played with comic relish by Benjamin Baeza, kindly takes our heroine on a wild shopping spree for multiple suitable outfits, taking care to hide the extent of her purchases from her husband Mr Allen. Some themes remain curiously modern.
Mrs Allen in action
Katherine gets unconscionably excited. ‘There will be balls!’ she exclaims. Indeed. In the absence of Internet dating, balls were a very important way of meeting potential partners of the opposite sex, certainly if you required one from the upper classes.
There were balls
Katherine meets Mr Henry Tilney who just happens to be handsome, charming and rich and incidentally the heir to Northanger Abbey. David John Hubball plays our dashing hero, the Mr Darcy of Northanger Abbey, albeit a slightly less snooty version.
Tasty Mr Tilney
Our heroine runs the gamut of being persued by an unsuitable rival and falling out with Mr Tilney due to a series of misunderstandings and the minefield of manners that is the world of Jane Austen.
Georgina Scott plays the other female characters with crackling high energy and Matthew Cooper and Benjamin Bruckshaw are the other various hapless male/female characters. They also make a very good virtual carriage and do an excellent line in horses hooves effects with coconut shells.
Girls will be girls
The audience participation is lots of fun. We all had to make different storm noises at one point which everyone found hilarious – although a quantity of alcohol may have already been consumed at this point. The demographic profile of the audience was revealed when Mrs Allen enquired of the audience where they had purchased various items. The ladies shoes were from Sketchers and the handbag from the Yorkshire Trading Company, the scarf from Monsoon. If you are reading this and you are not from the UK, this will probably mean nothing to you however.
Outdoor antics with Heartbreak Productions
I loved Northanger Abbey, and laughed out loud on several occasions. The fun was infectious and you don’t need to concentrate too much on the plot, just sit back and enjoy a couple of hours of fun and frivolity. Check out www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk for more information about other venues dates and times for this summers touring shows.