REVIEW: What would Jane say? - Regent Centre, Christchurch
JANE Austen was a celebrated novelist who lived between 1775 and 1817 while Trisha Lewis is a popular, locally-based actor, very much a woman of the 21st century. A new play by Peter John Cooper explores the fascinating question of what Miss Austen would have thought of the modern delights of the internet, all-night parties, celebrities, shopping and other facets of life today.
Ms Lewis – dressed in period costume but clasping trendy shopping bags – greets the audience as Miss Austen and soon introduces Cassandra, the sister who is the unseen other party on a lengthy mobile phone call. And a boozy party is the subject of their chat as Jane talks excitedly about Simon Cowell, Lady Gaga, Russell Brand and all the A-list celebrities including the Middleton family. Plus Colin Firth of whom a full-length cardboard cut-out is unfolded so that Jane can take a picture on the phone of her face next to his handsome features. Deciding to explore the world of computer dating, there are decisions to be made about her own description, what to look for in a man… a very far cry from the cloistered world of the late 18th century when the young novelist was torn apart from her suitor Tom who was deemed to be unsuitable. Spending time in the extensive library at home, she was a well-read woman but, in the version of 2013, takes great delight in the Kindle on which there are so many books. Introducing a long list of her own writing successes, Jane even leads the enthusiastic audience in a sing-along to the tune of My Favourite Things, plays a ukulele and dances a lively reel which evolves into a manic, modern boogie. Finishing with a potted version of Pride and Prejudice, playing several parts and using props of lace bonnet, parasol, man’s cap and sword, this was the finale of an evening which, though billed as play and lecture, was something of a potpourri.
Credit must go to Trisha Lewis who is never off stage in this one-woman premiere of the new comedy; she showed her pedigree as an all-rounder. This reviewer felt, however, that her undoubted talents would have benefited from better script writing – perhaps the Jane of the 21st century could have turned her dainty hand to such things. Pat Scott
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