I shouldn’t have liked Austensibility. It’s a rehearsed reading, far from memorized, from a local amateur group, performing a show that is half history lesson, half reenactment. Yet, Austensibility is a charming, educational and fun show if you are an Austen fan.

Josie Duncan (...) captures Austen’s mischievous energy and cynical worldliness with grace and charm

The script looks at the history and character of Jane Austen based on passages from letters and juvenilia written by her and about her. It’s comprehensive, interesting and well-researched.

I really enjoyed hearing bits of Austen’s early, unpublished work, which, though unpolished, still carries her distinctively tongue-in-cheek tone of voice. Other things, however, did not need reciting. A number of passages from the more famous novels were shown, including of course, Pride and Prejudice. Anyone who cares about Jane Austen would be well aware of this widely-known work, so there seemed little need to recreate these.

Austen’s words are brought to life by the ranks of the Mercators, a long established amateur theatre group. They’re a mixed bag. Susan Wales admirably plays some of Austen’s older women but Douglas Cure’s speech is slow and unclear. All tripped occasionally on the words as they read - an unfortunate reminder of the lack of rehearsal. Josie Duncan, who handles most of Austen’s own words and that of her heroines, was the best of the group, capturing Austen’s mischievous energy and cynical worldliness with grace and charm.

I had fun at Austensibility and learned much about Austen’s childhood, her struggles and successes as a published novelist, and her untimely illness and death. More uniquely, I got a glimpse at her personality. She seemed intelligent, witty and socially aware, but also petty, anti-social and overly money-conscious. In short, not someone you’d want at your party, but a great figure to read about, or see onstage.

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

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The Blurb

Since 2002, the Mercators, one of Edinburgh's longest established amateur theatre groups, have presented costumed dramatised readings celebrating famous writers such as Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle. This year we return to Jane Austen for the second time, documenting her life with her own words from her letters and reminiscences from family and acquaintances, illustrated with short extracts from her novels including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion. We also spotlight some of her lesser-known juvenilia, written by the teenage Jane for her own amusement and to entertain her family.