THE Lakes Season of transfers from the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick opens at York Theatre Royal tomorrow with Jane Austen’s Regency gem Sense & Sensibility.

Directed by Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster, the stage adaptation is by Olivier Award-winning Jessica Swale, who enjoyed the fragrant hit of the summer at the York theatre with The Secret Garden.

Sense & Sensibility will be one of three main house productions and one Studio show taking up temporary residence in York for the two-week season. See tomorrow’s The Press for more details on the other shows.

Swale delivers a fresh and funny account of the Dashwood sisters being cheated out of their inheritance and turfed out of their home. Banished to a chilly cottage in Devonshire, the arrival of a handsome stranger changes everything, but as the sisters chase their dreams of true love, circumstances conspire against them.

The osmosis between the York and Keswick theatres began with Theatre Royal artistic director Damian Cruden directing Elizabeth Mansfield in Hymn To Love, Homage To Love at the Theatre by the Lake in March (later playing York too).

"That led to discussions between Damian and Conrad Lynch, Keswick's artistic director,. about the potential of doing more exchanges between the theatres, with me directing one of the plays, and Sense And Sensibility was a really good match," says Juliet Forster.

"I've been pestering Damian to do an Austen adaptation at the Theatre Royal and the reason he always said 'No' was he felt it was difficult for theatre to compete with television and film, particularly a theatre of our scale, when people have images of the films and TV adaptations, as well as the novels, in their head."

Juliet persisted, however. "I still thought we could do it and so this is now my opportunity with a cast of ten. I talked a lot with designer Barney George about how we had to take on board what film can do that theatre can't do and what theatre can do that film can't," she says.

"Jessica's adaptation is really fleet of foot, so you need fluid transitions, but there are nuts and bolts of telling the story that you have to have too.

"This is the Austen novel that travels the most around the country and involves the most miles covered and the most locations, and throughout Austen's story there is a sense of characters trying to find the home where they belong, not just a physical home, so they are traipsing around to find where they feel settled.

York Press:

Sarah Kempton in Sense & Sensibility at York Theatre Royal from tomorrow. Picture: Robert Day

"So we wanted to achieve a sense of travel and transition and a sense of the changing seasons and moving forward as the story spans a lot of time.

"We ended up with a very simple, solid, clever set, and having talked from very early on about projections and film and whether that's good or bad for theatre, we decided we should put in these more modern elements. The projections don't interfere with the narrative or play with it; instead film is a lens through which we can look at the story more closely."

Barney George has worked in tandem with Simon Wainwright of cutting-edge Leeds theatre company Imitating The Dog, now an associate company at Keswick too, to bring the filmic aspect to Swale's play.

"The projections give a sense of changing locations and can also show how much is repressed and not said in the novel; how much is held on to; how much is restrained. This is a way to bring to the fore feelings that have been repressed," says Juliet.

The changes of location depicted on screen also make the audience more aware of the outdoors, as well as the indoors. "Of ten the characters feel free to be more expressive when they are outdoors," says Juliet.

"Within this highly mannered world, the desire to escape from these constraints is entirely understandable, but it's also a very beautiful setting, reflecting the love of poetry and the love of the natural world at that time."

Bringing story, design, direction and performance together, this Sense & Sensibility is "a very moving, very beautiful play, that's also very funny with some larger-than-life characters," says Juliet.

"It's a story of the struggle between the head and the heart and that is still true to how we behave today, How much do we hide? How much do we give away? How much do we risk losing by giving too much away?

"On the surface, Sense & Sensibility is a story about whether these two sisters will 'get' husbands, but it is way more interesting than that. It's not just frocks and fans, but all about the heart and how we relate to each other, especially when life for women was so fragile and without a good marriage, they were so vulnerable, so we care about them and the choices they make."

Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, presents Sense & Sensibility at York Theatre Royal, as part of The Lakes Season, tomorrow (November 6) until Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at