[2012079] Jane Austen is Dead

[2012079] Jane Austen is Dead

BRAVE Theatre @ Bakehouse Theatre – Studio

2:00pm, Sun 4 Mar 2012

Sure, the Bakehouse’s Studio is a relatively small space (it only seats about forty people), but there was a decent crowd in for this matinée – especially for a bright-yet-sticky Sunday afternoon. The set is simple: a bookcase that contained a couple of books, a collection of glasses, and a small bar were all that adorned the stage.

We soon meet Sophie, who owns and runs this Jane Austen-themed bar, left to her by her father (a self-confessed Jane Austen tragic). Sophie’s 33 years old, single, and her most significant ex-boyfriend is getting married tomorrow… and his bride-to-be’s hen’s night has just stepped into her bar. She laments her own singledom by comparing the significant men in her life to those that appear in Austen’s novels; her “Mr Darcy” is proving to be elusive, with the contenders providing comic fodder galore (her romantic dalliances in the schoolyard were a particular source of mirth). She also reflects on the seven stages of desperation, and her own loneliness is contrasted by her ditzy assistant Mary, who spends her “working” hours waiting for a text message from her cousin… a desperate date.

Mel Dodge is absolutely wonderful onstage in this solo outing: her acting was superb (despite their physical absence, it felt like Mary and The Bride were onstage with her), she’s as cute as a bug’s ear, and her Kiwi accent is to die for… hearing her lament “it’s fucking fiction” in authentic vowel-transliterated Kiwese remains a highlight of my Fringe. Her script is wonderful fun; whilst I’m no Austen aficionado, I could sense that it’s chock-full of in-jokes – but that certainly didn’t stop me from having a great old laugh. The contrast between the men in her life and the characters on the page is stark – there’s little nobility on offer, and even less genteel romanticism… but her characters’ unbridled hope – coupled with an almost reluctant pragmatism – remains utterly charming throughout.

Jane Austen is Dead was a real gem: a great script, presented by a talented actress, that left me feeling totally smitten. Brava!

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