Jane Austen’s stories speak to every generation, everyone can identify with at least one of her enthralling characters. Adeptly binding together the vibrancy and variation of thirteen of Austen’s heroines may seem overwhelming to some but Rebecca Vaughan triumphantly rises to the challenge. With extracts taken verbatim from Austen’s literary canon - renowned for their social commentary, especially on women’s position in society - this piece gives a taste of the humorous and dynamic characters in her work.
Thoroughly satisfying for all Austen fans, don’t be dissuaded if you have no experience of Austen as the extracts are expertly tailored in a fashion that makes them universally engaging. Characters range in age, status and locality all of which Vaughan beautifully encapsulates in her performance as she suavely weaves from one character to another. This one-woman production features some of Austen’s best-known heroines such as Emma Woodhouse (Emma) and Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility) and the lesser known Diana Parker (Sanditon). Though all characters appear to be perpetually concerned with marriage, their responses on the matter vary from hysterical to conniving. As the narrator, Vaughan gives a brief prelude to each character, opening and concluding with arguably Austen’s most prominent heroine, Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice). The opening lines of this spectacular novel are essentially the premise of this performance, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’. With superb fluidity, Vaughan switches from Elizabeth’s disdain for Mr Darcy to the fluttering naivety of Mary Stanhope’s (Juvenilia) as she contemplates a marriage proposal.
Guy Masterton’s direction serves the narrative well, knitting together the narrator’s dialogue in between the extracts without distracting from the flow of the piece. Vaughan’s adoration for Austen’s work is palpable as she charismatically holds the attention throughout the performance, delving into the plight of 18th century women, through the witty world of Jane Austen’s heroines.