In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland, a young woman with a liking for Gothic novels, is invited by family friends to visit Bath, where she makes new acquaintances, wishes to be deliciously terrified, and learns that a diet of fiction is not the best preparation for real life. Antonia Christophers and Noel Byrne lovingly tell the story in Austen’s own words, bringing it to life with the help of an old trunk, six hand-made puppets, and some simple but effective props and scenery.
Catherine’s inner world of romance, the fluctuation of her thoughts and emotions, and the real attraction growing between her and Henry Tilney are beautifully portrayed: the chemistry between the two actors is obvious but understated. The vain and self-obsessed Isabella Thorpe [with wonderful ringlets!] and her brainless and boastful brother John and the other characters in the tale are vividly brought to life by the superb characterisation in voice and body language of the two puppeteers. Set and costumes are extremely simple, and the simplicity allows the truth of the story to shine through. Music is well-used throughout to create atmosphere, and the thunderous use of Bach’s famous Toccata in D Minor underscores Catherine’s imagined Gothic horrors and the terrifying behaviour of General Tilney, the villain of the plot.
This is an enchanting and engaging version of the novel which I found a delight from start to finish.