Matilda Bailes _ Adam Deary in Persuasion _ photo by The Other Richard_

I was scanning the faces outside Oxford Playhouse anxiously, trying to ascertain whether the purists had enjoyed the brave new adaption of Persuasion we’d enjoyed so much.

Were they shocked, horrified, disgusted? Were they worried Jane Austen was turning in her grave? Would my mother like it?


After all, a Dua Lipa soundtrack, foam party, bikinis, swearing, rap and robotic dance moves may not be everyone’s cup of tea, however brilliant the performance was. Could I recommend something so wholeheartedly if a Regency backlash was about to kick off?

Adam Deary and Matilda Bailes in Persuasion. photo by The Other Richard

And then two elegant elderly women walked past me. “Wasn’t that amazing?” they said to each other, just as in awe of what had just taken place on the Oxford Playhouse stage as I was.

From the moment the action kicked off, we were spellbound

So there we are. Not only has Persuasion won over a whole new generation of theatre-goers, but it’s even turned the Austen fans. READ ABOUT IT HERE:

Persuasion stars Sasha Frost and Fred Fergus

From the moment the action kicked off, we were spellbound. What became clear from the start was that this was Austen as we had never seen it before. The characters were in modern day casual clothes. They screamed and shouted, danced and sang, swore and snogged, twerked and slut dropped, pushed each other off stage, but more than anything they were searingly real.

What became clear from the start was that this was Austen as we had never seen it before

The story goes that Anne (played by a very watchable Sasha Frost) and her family have to leave their ancestral home due to mounting debts and move to Bath for the season. Anne’s sister Elizabeth (Matilda Bailes) is husband hunting, a hobby Ann is completely disinterested in until she bumps into her former fiancee Wentworth (Fred Fergus) and realises her feelings haven’t changed, despite an eight year absence.

Matilda Bailes and Adam Deary in Persuasion ┬ęThe Other Richard

Brought into the modern day with genius comic timing, staging and characteristics, it is as much a parody of us now as then, because of course once they were the once thebrave new things, rather than dusty relics frozen in the early 19th century.

The story itself is more vivid because of it. Staying true to Austen‘s text and fervour, give or take the odd expletive (I can’t remember Anne telling everyone to F off in the original), we were sitting on the edge of our seats throughout, despite knowing how the tale unfolds.

And as the play draws to an end and the ‘will they/won’t they’ plot reaches its conclusion, you could have heard a pin drop.

you could have heard a pin drop. This is largely down to the truly epic cast and their multitude of roles

This is largely down to the truly epic cast and their multitude of roles. Sasha Frost as Anne is suitably removed, passionate and true, Matilda Bailes, just released from LAMDA is hilariously flamboyant as both Elizabeth and Louisa, Mary’s comic timing (Helen Cripps) is genius and reminded me of Catherine Tate, Adam Deary (Edmund, Captain Benwick and Mr Elliot was a Herculean and menacing presence, playing the cad to perfection, Wentworth himself (Fred Fergus) is as frustratingly elusive as required, the little boy Samuel whom we all fell in love with (shared by Albie, Austin and Tate) and Caroline Moroney, Dorain Simpson, Grace Cookey-Gam and Emilio Doorgasingh sweep up the remaining characters with charismatic efficiency.

Fred Fergus and Matilda Bailes in Persuasion ┬ęThe Other Richard

In short, I can’t urge you enough to see this incredible co-production (staged by Rose Theatre and Alexandra Palace in association with Oxford Playhouse). It’s a gift of a play and Oxford is lucky to have it.

persuasion is a gift of a play and Oxford is lucky to have it

Finishing after it’s Playhouse run, I can only hope that Persuasion gets picked up and toured nationally. Everyone should get the chance to see this excellent, gripping, hilarious and daring production which brings Austen’s beloved book to life in such an inspired and affectionate way.

Persuasion at Oxford Playhouse runs until May 14. Book here:

Katherine MacAlister