Collage Talks: Anna Steen (State Theatre Company of South Australia)

Anna Steen
Anna Steen in costume for Sense and Sensibility. Image credit: James Hartley

Collage Adelaide: Hello Anna!

Anna Steen: Hello!

CA: Thanks for talking to us today. You’re playing Elinor Dashwood in State Theatre Company‘s new production of Sense and Sensibility, adapted from the novel by Jane Austen. Were you an Austen fan before being part of this production?

AS: I’d say I am a bit of an Austen fan, yeah! I haven’t read all her books, but I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma … I’ve read most of them. And I love the BBC series based on her books.

CA: Have you been inspired by those earlier TV productions?

AS: I love the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility. And of course the 1995 BBC series of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy as well … can’t go past that! I was watching it last night for inspiration.

CA: So what draws you to Austen’s stories?

AS: I think it’s her incredible gentle wit and wonderful turns of phrase. The way she portrays these sometimes ridiculous characters with beautiful truth … And the ridiculous world where everything is shaped by money and parental influence and the intensity of gossip; how she exposes the irony in that world.

CA: So, what is new about this adaptation by Kate Hamill and this production of Sense and Sensibility by State Theatre Company?

AS: This adaptation really pulls out the concepts of gossips controlling the society and controlling the movement of the other characters. It distills the action of the novel, and while it includes the most heartfelt, beautiful moments, it then explodes them too with these big, bolshy characters of the gossips.

Anna Steen in rehearsals for Sense and Sensibility. Image credit: Sia Duff

CA: The novel Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811, over 200 years ago. Why is this story relevant in 2018?

AS: It’s a love story, of two sisters both experiencing intense matters of the heart but more importantly it’s about their unconditional love for each other. This production is female-led – the sisters are at the heart of it. And it’s about love winning out against the forces of a society driven by wealth, status and power, in which love can be bruised, crushed and battered but ultimately wins.

CA: For me, the tension at the heart of this story is that between the two sisters’ temperaments: Elinor’s “sense”, guardedness and propriety against Marianne’s “sensibility”, romanticism and impulsiveness.

AS: Yes.

CA: What do you think audiences can learn from the relationship between these sisters?

AS: What’s really beautiful about these two women is that they learn from each other in the course of the story. Each has something that the other needs: Elinor, who usually puts everyone else first, learns from Marianne to stand up for herself, and Marianne learns that to step more gently leads to a more pure happiness. So by the end of the play, Elinor and Marianne are a better version of themselves.

CA: This is the final production for the State Theatre Company Ensemble, I believe.

AS: That’s right.

CA: Can you tell us a bit about your experience being part of the Ensemble?

AS: The Ensemble has been an incredible experience. I’ve learned so much from my co-actors and from developing a kind of shorthand between ourselves and our director. It’s definitely brought me a lot more confidence which I hope to carry with me into the future. I’m really sad to leave, but all good things must come to an end!

CA: Sadly! Just to finish, are there any other messages you’d like to put out there for people who might come to see Sense and Sensibility?

AS: Expect the unexpected, and be open to beautiful chaos.

CA: Awesome. Thank you so much for speaking to us, Anna Steen!

AS: Thank you, bye!


Matilda Handsley-Davis

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