The host of diverse people who crowd the pages of Jane Austen’s memorable novel all appear in this production by the Hotbuckle company, amazingly performed by just four actors.

The cleverly constructed comedy in which a bored Emma’s decision to become a matchmaker goes badly awry, has been sensitively adapted for the stage and given just the right amount of subtle wit to create a most enjoyable Austen theatrical classic.

Small changes to the order of narrative are carried out for dramatic effect but the overall construction of the comedy fits together very nicely and even the most devoted Austen fan would be satisfied with this adaptation.

Without a single prop, the excellent cast eat and drink invisible tea and cakes and enjoy the social whirl of their community life on a stage with a simple yet ingenious set and accompanied by imaginative background music performed by the actors themselves.

Emily Lockwood is just right as the lovely Emma as she makes the mistake of trying to organise people lives while caring for her grouchy father, played by Adrian Preater who also adapted the work and becomes numerous other men and women throughout the play.

In a marvellously observed portrayal of character changes, Peter Randall takes on the heroic roles of Mr Knightly and Frank Churchill, as well as a hilariously camp Mr Elton while Clare Harlow flies wonderfully within seconds from the homely Harriet Smith to the outrageously snobbish Augusta Elton in a production that is keenly observant and altogether great fun.

The Shropshire based company are entirely self-sufficient and, judging by the reception they received from their Dorchester audience, this team of players would certainly appear to deserve financial support from the Arts Council.