The young cast of Chapterhouse Theatre Company’s Cranford brought spirit and humour to Lytham Hall on the opening night of their national outdoor tour.
Laura Turner’s stage adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1851 novel rightly focusses on the equality if not the superiority of women and the strongest and funniest scenes are those where the ladies of Cranford, led by the excitable Miss Pole (Jenny Deering) and the upstanding Miss Jenkyns (Rachael Cummins), simply tittle tattle.
There’s a marked northern setting with characterful accents from servants Fanny (Kate Coverley) and Martha (Bethan Barnard), whilst Paul Valentine as Captain Brown, Natasha Stiven as Mary Smith and Charlie Frances as Jem Hearn all shine.
The noise of rain was a challenge both for the cast and an attentive audience, but in the second half audibility improved and the onlookers especially enjoyed a cameo scene from Rory Moncaster as flamboyant magician Signor Brunoni who causes the death of a much-loved pet dog.
Director Ben Poole moves the action briskly and more serious issues of the time such as the arrival of the railway in rural Cranford and the possibility of instant personal financial ruin through collapse of a bank are thoughtfully handled.
It’s an entertaining show with some delightfully eccentric characters.