Austen’s Women has made a bold claim about this production; that whether you’re a Jane Austen virgin or an avid fan of her works, this play will be an insightful treat. Having given up on the literature giantess after English GCSE I definitely fall into the first bracket and was interested to see what, if any, affect this Austen tribute had on me.
Rebecca Vaughan not only fused together this production using just the words of Jane Austen, but she is also the solo performer. Vaughan moves in and out of fourteen different characters from various novels and glues them all together with a narrative voice, also lifted from the books.
Given the facts, it’s easy to understand why I was daunted by the prospect of eighty minutes of this niche concept. However, I kept an open mind and was pleasantly surprised. I was immediately drawn into the atmosphere thanks to the wonderfully quaint set and costume, which is beautifully complimented by the intimate basement of Leicester Square Theatre.
Vaughan tackles the massively challenging task of shifting between such a vast array of characters admirably. Her performance is convincing throughout and overall borders on being faultless. The well placed monologues keep the production flowing with a passionate energy and the narratives in between keep the audience well in tune with the goings on.
Notable monologues include the distraught Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility) who tearfully comes to terms with her fancy man’s sudden lack of interest. Also, the strong willed Mary Musgrove (Persuasion) who fights against the cliché role of motherhood. A couple of the characterisations did seem a tad too similar, lacking the differentiation required for this theatrical feat, but all in all it is hard to criticise such a remarkably accomplished performance.
Although it was certainly enjoyable and maintained my interest throughout, I did leave Leicester Square Theatre asking myself ‘what was the point?’ The play seemed to lack a powerful punch. Austen’s Women doesn’t challenge the audience. Something about it is a bit too agreeable, and as a result, rather forgettable.
So, if you’re in the mood for epic, life changing theatre, Austen’s Women probably isn’t the best bet, but it does make for an enjoyable evening and is very reasonably priced as far as West End plays go; definitely worth a watch, whether you’re a Jane Austen aficionado or not.
Adapted from the works of Jane Austen and performed by Rebecca Vaughan. Directed by Guy Masterson. Austens Women is showing at the Leicester Square Theatre 20th April – 9th May, booking via their website. Prices from: £20 – £18