Trollope With A Twist In Bicentennial Play

Lady Anna: All At Sea, Park Theatre ★★★★☆

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 84 months ago
Trollope With A Twist In Bicentennial Play Lady Anna: All At Sea, Park Theatre 4
Photo by Simon Annand

To celebrate the bicentennial of much-loved Victorian author Anthony Trollope, Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, is staging a commission by the Trollope Society — a new version of one of his most famous novels, Lady Anna.

Famed for his unswerving self-discipline Trollope wrote nine pages a day without fail — and that was before breakfast. This and many other interesting facts about his life are revealed in Lady Anna: All At Sea — a play that flits between the fictional tale of Lady Anna and the real account of how Trollope wrote it.

Fans of the author will be delighted with this faithful-yet-fresh adaptation of the story of a young impoverished gentlewoman whose overbearing mother insists she marry an earl to settle a long held legal battle and win back their lost fortune. For those new to Trollope, the emotive story of convention and class vs love will be equally gripping, and might well leave itching to try one of his other novels.

Through understated characterisation, cleverly inserted extracts of the novel and a rollicking interpretation of the plot, the play perfectly translates Trollope’s tale to the stage. We get an insight into the real life figure behind the books, a gifted author who blends the apt social observations of Austen with a hint of Dickensian melodrama and an acerbic wit that is all his own.

The only downside is the abstract setting in a sea of books — a necessary but slightly trite solution to telling two stories at once. The open stage is very well-used by the actors, however, who move effortlessly between multiple roles through small changes in expression, stance and accent that are rarely overdone. Between them all roams the largest character of Trollope controlling the action to reveal how fantasy matches reality in more ways than one.

Lady Anna: All At Sea is on at Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, N4 3JP until 19 September. Tickets £15-25, with pay what you can matinees. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 21 August 2015