Sunday, 12 October 2008

Monday 23 April 2007

Because we are currently experiencing a miserable time here at Chateau Jasper, this entry is to be dedicated entirely to nice things. First, here is the other review of my partner's play:

from The Hampshire Chronicle by Kit Neilson

Elegant and original, this two-hander

REVIEW: Affectionately Yours, Jane Austen, Ropley Dramatic Society

A DOZEN years ago Colin Firth did that famous fully-clad Darcy dive into the lake at Pemberley, since when interest in all things Austen has exploded, with a flood of films, TV dramas, books and articles.Now there is another – one which until last week had not produced the tiniest echo on the radar, due to the fact that it was making its world première on the stage at Ropley. Affectionately Yours, Jane Austen is an imaginative and ingenious two-hander which explores the special relationship between Hampshire’s greatest literary heroine and her sister, Cassandra.

Taking surviving letters from Jane, the society’s Ruth --- has invented an interlinking correspondence between the siblings, highlighting not only their deep devotion, but casting a not always respectful eye over the rigid social mores of the day.

And it works, with the sisters sitting at either side of a near-naked stage and the spotlight alternately falling on each as they read their latest letters. Indeed, it is not until near the end and Jane’s final illness that they actually “meet”.

So we discover that both entertained high hopes of marriage. Jane’s were doomed when her beau, Tom Lefroy, was abruptly sent away, Jane being thought far too poor to make a good match. Cassandra was engaged to Tom Fowle, a naval chaplain, whose posting to the West Indies station proved disastrous, as he swiftly succumbed to yellow fever.

Tracy Wickham made an excellent Jane, with a fine understanding of the part. She expertly brought out Jane’s gift for observation and innate sense of mischief, peppering her dialogue with acerbic comments on the social and physical failings of her contemporaries.

As well as writing, producing and directing, Ruth --- tackled the role of Cassandra, imbuing it with a wit and robustness even an ardent Austenite might not have suspected. The elder woman is fleshed out and revealed as possibly the essential catalyst for Jane’s success, for we all need encouragement and Cassandra’s was of the best kind.

Ms --- [Ruth] held the stage for the last 15 minutes and her portrayal of the disintegrating sister was an arresting piece of theatre.

The play is also an education: we learn that Jane was paid precious little for her work, that publishers routinely took her for a ride and that Pride and Prejudice laboured under the title First Impressions until sensibly rebadged.

The unseen Graham Smith ably played the part of the narrator, linking the episodes in the lives of the sisters.

On the debit side, the play could lose 15 minutes. And the minimalist set left a lot to the imagination. That said, it would be a pity if such an elegant and original production be enjoyed by such a narrow audience. True, its appeal is limited and perhaps only true Janeites would appreciate all its nuances, but it could and should go further.


Secondly, I have to report that I have entered the first item on this year's Christmas list to Santa Paws. Here is a link to my gift of choice: Wahey!

So, our forced smiles are better than no smiles at all, and I daresay we will be alright soon.

Good night.
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