Emma at New Era Theatre

This stage version of Jane Austen's novel Emma is an adaptation by Paula K. Parker that preserves most of the dialogue of the original and makes the complicated plot quite easy to follow, while not giving away any of the mystery too soon.

The events in the village of Highbury during a whole year are presented, including a Christmas party, a ball, and a strawberry picking excursion.

The presentation of the carriage ride, during which Mr Elton proposes to Emma, to her astonishment, and is turned down, to his even greater astonishment, was ingenious.

Pippa Higgins took the lead rôle of the well meaning match-maker Emma Woodhouse most capably and was effectively contrasted with Emily Beck as Harriet Smith, not an easy rôle to play as Harriet is a sensitive creature, whose series of romantic dreams and disappointments are very painful to her, however comical to us. Poor Harriet's life is nearly wrecked by her dominating friend, but Jane Austen gives us a deeply satisfactory ending.

     Keith Philips was excellent as Emma's father. Karen Ashby was very funny as Miss Bates, Floss Fearon was a most attractive Jane Fairfax, and Parry Bates made a very lively and charming Frank Churchill -- that rascally young man whose name is deeply ironic as he is anything but frank.

   The part of Mrs Elton, who outdoes Emma in her snobbishness and bossiness, was very amusingly taken by Rachel Lashford.

   Emma, having been thoughtless and hurtful to Harriet and to Miss Bates, learns the error of her ways and is only then grown up enough to marry; while Harriet is rewarded with a husband who loved her enough to wait, and not lose hope after a first rejection.

   Altogether this made a very pleasant evening's entertainment.