DramaReviewSouth West

Lady Anna: All at Sea – Theatre Royal, Winchester

Writer: Craig Baxter (inspired by the work of Anthony Trollope)
Director: Colin Blumenau
Reviewer: Christy Ku

Set in Victorian England, the story begins with a disputed will. Lady Anna and her cousin, Earl Frederick Lovell are both contesting to inherit Anna’s late father’s estate and a huge fortune. She must decide whether to marry her cousin and secure her title and status, or to follow her heart and marry a lowly tailor – to the horror of her family and friends. Meanwhile, Anthony Trollope is on board the SS Great Britain, writing his novel Lady Anna and the plot shocks his fellow passengers.

It’s an immensely charming play. Dialogue driven, the writing is excellent with well-delivered humour – Lady Anna: All at Sea has the audience laughing throughout and gripped by the story. Adam Scott-Rowley brings Frederick’s over-excitable and loveably sweet character to life with his energy and charm, while Rhiannon Handy plays Anna as a modern heroine, bringing her strong spirit to the role. Maggie O’Brien is perfect for Countess Lovel, bringing her dignity to the Countess’ cruel pride, unrelentingly harsh, making the audience gasp.

The cast of seven plays at least two characters each, slipping in and out of them with a small costume change and a different accent. While the play is a story within a story, there seems to be little point of the scenes on board the SS Great Britain scenes, other than to add breaks for the drama and show society’s reactions to the developing story.

The set is covered with books, stacked around the stage and hanging from the ceiling with huge parchment-like banners draping the set. The play makes clever use of the stacks of books – they become chairs, desks and stepping stones across the river. The costumes are also wonderful, with elegant period dresses and smart suits adding to the play’s charm.

Lady Anna: All at Sea is an utterly wonderful play to watch, with Baxter creating a theatrical delight.

Runs until 21 September 2016 | Image: Simon Annand

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