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Northanger Abbey at Bolton Octagon

Northanger Abbey at Bolton Octagon

March 2024.

Northanger Abbey, the Jane Austin classic, has been “reimagined” in a play that’s transferred from the Orange Tree in Richmond, and it’s on at Bolton Octagon until March 23rd. The cast of 3 take on all roles from the novel with a fair amount of gender fluidity, and the lines are delivered in a semi-staccato which matches the pace, such is the roller coaster nature of the production.

The main part of the reimagining is to lend a sapphic twist to the things where humble-origined Catherine, the naïve girl in a village vicarage, becomes a young woman quite early on in the proceedings – as the rather in-your-face reference to menstruation depicts – and is restless to escape. She is unable to distinguish fiction (she reads a lot) from reality, and in the move to high society Bath to free herself from her family, she encounters the calculating Isabella, in more ways than one, and various polyamorous love interests ensue. These provide the backdrop for the rest of the evening.

The whole thing becomes rather baffling and after the interval it was obvious a lot of people simply didn’t get it – or return to their seats. The main problem is understanding the rather confusing timeline of events. As this is a reimagining, I couldn’t help but try to link some things back to the original. Perhaps it’s unfair to do so, but had the play been called anything else the link wouldn’t be possible. That said, a lot of it is in there still.

Full marks to Rebecca Banatvala, AK Golding, and Sam Newton – the 3 actors who made an excellent job of keeping things on track – just. There is humour, comedy even, but things never become farcical – although quite how they don’t is a testament to them all.

It’s an interesting experiment but, in common with several others, I left the theatre wondering “Why?”

The play moves to Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough and then to Theatre by the Lake in Kendal.

Tickets

Paul Schofield for Canal St Media

Published: 6-Mar-2024 (7407)

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