Q&A with Sense & Sensibility star, Sarah Kempton

York Theatre Royal fans will be delighted to hear Sense & Sensibility is coming to the stage as part of this autumn’s The Lakes Season. The show’s running from 6th-10th November.

I was lucky enough to gain access to a Q&A interview with Sarah Kempton, who plays Elinor Dashwood.

Sense and Sensibility is such a well-loved classic. Can you remember first reading it, or did you study it at school?

We actually didn’t do any Austen at school, which is terrible, especially given that I grew up very close to where she was from. I’m afraid that I came to Austen through the screen. I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, I remember watching it with my Nanna and I loved talking about it with her. I then watched Emma Thompson’s version of Sense and Sensibility and adored it, as a teenager I immediately felt connected to Elinor and her struggles. When I finally read the novel a few years ago, I’d already seen several screen adaptations, but I was blown away by how accessible it was and how beautifully it paints and details these characters. They come to life so well because they are written so well. I re-read it as we rehearsed and it’s such a gift to have this extra resource available giving us so much depth to the characters. I’m falling in love with Austen all over again. 

What is it like bringing such a well-known character as Elinor Dashwood to life?

It’s a unique experience because some people will already have a very strong idea of who Elinor is, either from screen adaptations or from the novel itself. So it’s really important to me to keep true to who she is in the book. Austen created a wonderful well-rounded character and I want to honour that. At the same time I’m excited to bring some of me to the role and share my interpretation.

And for anyone who doesn’t know the book or the character of Elinor Dashwood, could you tell us a bit about her?

She is a deeply caring, strong, intelligent woman who has huge emotion with equally huge control over herself, sometimes to her detriment. Her sister complains that Elinor feels ‘nothing at all’, but actually it is that she feels so very much it is easier to say nothing than open the flood gates. We see her journey as she has to learn to allow her heart and head to meet in the middle to get her man!

What can audiences expect from the production?

This stunning version by Jessica Swale is so beautifully adapted and has brought Austen to life in a very real and current way. You don’t have to be an Austen fan to enjoy it; the characters feel so alive and fresh and the scenes whip along at such a pace you just can’t help but get absorbed in the story. While staying totally true to the language, period and characters, the play is far from a slow, drawing room drama. It cleverly brings the humanity of the people to life, and the real humour and tragedy of it all.

Get your tickets from the York Theatre Royal website

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