‘An Evening at Home with the Austens’
The Ruffled Umbrella Company
The Rondo Theatre, Bath
Philip Wall – Henry Austen
Isabel Snowden – Jane Austen
Phoebe Kemp – Eliza de Feuillide
Written and directed by Isabel Snowden
Based on Jane Austen’s juvenilia, the rarely used stories written by Jane Austen as a teenager, An Evening At Home With The Austens is show that will be appreciated by die-hard Jane Austen fans.
From the moment the audience arrive they are immersed in the action of the evening as characters mingle among them, strike up conversations and welcome them to the Austen’s living room, which is gradually created as the pre-show frivolity ensues.
The show itself contains moments that are funny, mainly thanks to Phillip Wall’s slapstick antics, the use of hats for becoming female characters was a key example of this. However, many more obvious opportunities were missed out on or did not quite reach their full potential.
There was a mixture of different styles utilized throughout the piece from melodrama, to slapstick to rigid regency characterisation but there was no coherent form that stuck and the end result was a little bit messy and could do with tightening up and defining in more detail.
Many of the lines were delivered in a monosyllabic tone with big over-the-top actions but not enough colour in the tone of voice to make it interesting enough to match the big gestures.
The first half of the show galloped along at a good pace but felt slightly nervous and a little under-rehearsed at times. When the company got into their stride in the second half they felt more relaxed and comfortable and this allowed the natural pace and comedy of the writing to come to the fore.
The show presents an opportunity for fans of Jane Austen to see work which rarely gets seen and anyone who appreciates her writing will love this show but from a theatrical point of view it has lots of potential but needs a little more polishing as it’s still quite rough around the edges.