Adapting Jane Austen’s sublime novels into plays is no walk in the park.

So much of their quality lies in the language Austen used and her gentle irony aimed at life in the 19th century, particularly the lot of women.

So all credit to Frances Poet who has adapted Austen’s first novel for the St Albans open air festival and director Adam Nichols for how easily it slips on to the stage at the Roman Theatre in a joint production by OVO and Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

Poet retains as much of Austen’s language as is possible within the limitations of a stage production and Nichols brings his usual vision to directing it.

It pokes fun at the nuances of the age while ensuring that the drama and comedy in the lives of the Dashwood family is fully in evidence.

Played out on a sparse stage where use is made of pillars to highlight changes in locations, it does not fall into the trap of being performed in modern dress but sticks to the costumes of the time.

The production is intercepted by modern music, but performed in such a way that it slots not only into the scenes but also the age in which Sense and Sensibility was written.

With the exception of three of the characters – Marianne Dashwood, her sister Elinor and the roguish John Willoughby - each actor takes two parts.

Lola Aluko as the excitable romantic Marianne is in stark contrast to her much more sensible sister Elinor, played by Kirsty Findlay. Both are very comfortable in their roles.

They take the more serious parts in a production with plenty of humour that Austen would surely have approved of.

Signe Larsson is a revelation as their mother, Mrs Dashwood, so keen for her girls to make good marriages and unable to contain herself when it looks as though they might.

She also plays the single-minded Lucy Steele who is determined to hang on to Edward Ferrars – a dashing figure played by Connor Going - to whom she has been engaged for many years.

Robin Simpson, whom the programme notes tell us is a resident pantomime dame in York, is hilarious as Mrs Ferrars and upright as Sir John Middleton.

Chris Coxon as the weak John Dashwood and the honourable Colonel Brandon as well as Nina Kristoferson as the odious Fanny Dashwood and kindly housekeeper Mrs Jennings both cope admirably with such contrasting roles.

No such requirement for Luke Wilson as the dashing John Willoughby who is not the man he seems.

Sense and Sensibility can be seen again at the Roman Theatre from August 12-18. Tickets and further information can be found at