Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, dramatized by Helen Edmundson

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Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 4 August 2013
Nadia Molinari's production concentrated on the limited horizons available for young women during the early nineteenth century, especially when they did not have any money.  The opening was a melancholy one, with Elinor (Amanda Hale) and Marianne (Olivia Hallinan) bemoaning the fact that they had had to move from Sussex to Devon, to a much smaller house with very few prospects.  Their mother (Deborah McAndrew) tried to console them, but there was little that she could do.
The rural society into which they had been thrust was both parochial and gossip-ridden, helmed by Sir John (Conrad Nelson) - a man of endless bonhomie and absolutely no discretion - and attracting middle-aged hangers-on such as Mrs. Jennings (Brigid Forsyth), who was perpetually preoccupied with others' lives.  The two Dashwood girls discovered to their cost that their personal affairs were endlessly discussed in public whether they wanted it or not.
Initially it seemed as if they would have the solace of a good match: Marianne met Willoughby (Ben Lamb), while Elinor believed that she could trust in Ferrers (Henry Devas).  However both of them were doomed to disillusion: neither male partner had sufficient self-possession to admit their true feelings, concealing them beneath facades of politeness.  The sadness of the girls' lives was underlined by melancholy music (from Emily Hooker) that linked the various sequences in the adaptation.
Although described in the publicity as "a comedy of manners," Molinari's production portrayed the Dashwood girls as prisoners of a social world they neither felt part of, nor could escape.  The social distance between themselves and those around them was underlined by the introduction of Nancy (Victoria Brazier) and Lucy (Caitlin Thorburn) - both well-meaning yet socially gauche women who knew everything about the Dashwoods' private lives.