DYNAMIC, engaging and moving, Austen's Women is superb theatre.
Adapted and performed by Rebecca Vaughan, and directed by Guy Masterson, this thoroughly enjoyable performance brings to life the language and characters of literary great, Jane Austen.
Vaughan lovingly delivers monologues from 14 of Austen's female protagonists, interspersed with narrative from the author herself.
One of the strengths of the performance is Vaughan's ability to segue between characters there is barely a pause for her to recompose, yet she does so effortlessly.
Whether it is the ditsy Mary Stanhope, the distraught Marianne Dashwood or the strong-willed Elizabeth Bennett, Vaughan's immense talent illuminates them all. It is witty and fast-paced, but sprinkled with pathos and reflection, and will resonate with a modern audience whether they are fans of the novels or not. (Sarah Martin - Adelaide Advertiser 22/01/10)
A Masterful One-Woman Show:
Austen's Women is a most agreeable tribute to the enduring and much-loved author Jane Austen.
Rebecca Vaughan has adapted the words of and performed the characters from the works of the 19th century romantic novelist in a manner to be most universally admired.
For those who have been living in solitary confinement all of their lives, Jane Austen was an English novelist whose romantic fiction novels are amongst the most widely read in English literature. Her works and her life have spawned numerous modern-day fan clubs, films and television adaptations. Literary critics continue to debate her works to this day.
In a masterful one-woman show Vaughan depicts 14 female characters from the much-loved works. She fluidly moves from one character to another appropriately starting and ending with arguably the most popular - Elizabeth Bennett from "Pride and Prejudice'.
Director Guy Masterson has helped Vaughan bring to life a kaleidoscope of colourful characters, calling forth precious memories for fans and whetting the appetite for others.
It is not just the characters that light up the stage, but also the dry, humorous and sarcastic words of Austen that come to life.
Who can forget the infamous opening line of 'Pride and Prejudice'? - "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.'
It is on this premise that Masterson and Vaughan base their show's theme - marriage and the importance of it in Austen's society and consequently her literary works.
Each character is subtly, or not so subtly, maneuvering their lives around the choosing of or the consequences of having chosen a husband, or is facing a life without a husband. Austen's novels are alive with sparkling characters both men and women. This show is about the women, the degrees to which the choice of a marriage partner affects their lives and how they maintain their self-respect (or not) in doing so.
Vaughan superbly switches from Regency character to character - one moment the wretched, love-lorn Marianne Dashwood from 'Sense and Sensibility', next the hard-hearted Mrs Norris of 'Mansfield Park' and then the ditzy spinster Miss Bates from 'Emma'. This is to name just a few of the 14 wonderful characters.
This is a one-woman show for Austen fans to relish. It is a treatise on women and marriage in the 19th century in exactly the manner of which Ms Austen would have approved. It is also an excellent first impression for those who have not yet had the delight of being introduced to the delightfully wicked and witty world of Jane Austen.
(Stephanie Johnson - Australian Stage - 23/02/10)
CLEVER & BEAUTIFULLY PERFORMED
Adapted and performed by UK actress Rebecca Vaughan, this is one clever and beautifully performed hour-or-so of theatre. Under the direction of Guy Masterson, Vaughan portrays 14 characters from Austen's books, via monologues written using only the words of Austen herself.
Some of the characters are better known than others but you don't need to be an Austen fan to understand and appreciate them. Vaughan gives each woman an individual voice, cleverly bringing out the humour and irony of Austen's words without delving into parody or caricature.
Also of interest are the Katie Flanaghan's costumes; During the course of her show, Vaughan dresses as a privileged lady from the 18th century, in everything from petticoats to socks to hair adjournment and gloves. It's interesting to see how the elaborate outfits we so often see in Austen movies are constructed. (Eleanor Miller Adelaide City Messenger 05/03/10)
If you love the works of that epitome of romantic novelists, Jane Austen, then you will most certainly not want to miss this production. If, on the other hand, you thought that Mrs. Norris was merely a caretaker's cat in a castle where magic is taught, then you are in for a terrific surprise when you discover who she really was. Either way, you will love this work as Rebecca Vaughan, under the acute direction of Guy Masterson, superbly brings to life a diverse cross section of Austen's fascinating characters in rapid succession.
Fourteen of the women are represented, with every word taken from Austen's novels, a narrator linking scenes with lines taken from a range of her writings. With only a minimal change of costuming Vaughan, who also wrote the script, slips easily and seamlessly between each of the characters in a glorious parade of quirky personalities.
There is great humour in Austen's writing and Vaughan teases out all of the subtleties in the words spoken by each of these often flawed characters. It is interesting that, even though the men are not actually represented, their presences are often felt, sometimes very strongly, as the women constitute themselves through the men with they are, or wish to be involved.
Vaughan's performance is a tour de force and it is clear to see how much she loves each of her characters in her committed performances and understanding of their personalities and foibles. Austen would be thrilled to see how alive and exciting her characters are so many years later, still fresh and relevant in the hands of this marvellous performer.
Producer/director/actor, Guy Masterson, has established a reputation for bringing the very highest quality theatre to Adelaide Fringes over the years and this production, one of eight that he had brought us this year, is certainly worthy of that title. This is 'must see' theatre this Fringe. (Barry Lenny - Glamadelaide.com - 22/10/10)
A huge fan of the Bronte sisters, on the strength of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights alone, this reviewer has never been captured the same way by the novels of Jane Austen. Nothwithstanding superb dramatisations on both film and now television, they have failed to make a lasting impression.
But the performance of one woman, Rebecca Vaughan, who has devised a framework in which she portrays no less than fourteen female characters from nine of the English novelist's works, in Austen's Women now playing at Higher Ground theatre, is nothing short of breathtaking.
This is acting at its highest level - with no-one else on stage to share the load, the responsibility. Before our very eyes, she morphs seamlessly into each character, perhaps with some introductory narration in the style of Austen as she affects a slight change of costume, significantly varied voice and demeanour for each character, a new turn of the head, some change in hair brooches - and throughout, a face sparkling with the joy of it all.
And there is never any danger that the glimpses Vaughan gives us of Austen's women will become tediously repetitive.
Sharing the responsibility off stage, however, is director Guy Masterson, himself a superb actor and entrepreneur of a bewildering array of shows, which he brings here every year for the Fringe from the UK. His sensitive expert direction helps Ms Vaughan to shine as she does.
The number of performances of Austen's Women is generous, so you are urged not to leave a visit off your theatre-going list. You won't see too many one-woman shows as good as this... (Richard Flynn - Adelaide Theatre Guide - 24/02/10)
WHAT THE PUNTERS HAVE SAID (SOURCE www.talkfringe.com.au)
Kay_Today wrote: This was a clever thought-provoking look at some of the women in Jane Austen's novels. It both illuminated some of special pressures on women of her time, and the eternal behaviours of people regardless of social situations. It was amusing and insightful. In spite of the occasional tendency to deliver dialogue so quickly that it was difficult to understand, it was an excellent performance that has inspired us to return again to the works of Ms Austen.
jimbo wrote: A tour to force beautifully woven from selections of Austen's work.
Gloria wrote: A great performance. She's very engaging. One of my faves.
angela wrote: No knowledge of Jane Austen necessary to enjoy this brilliant show.
Frankie wrote: Loved it! Brilliant show! The performer is so engaging- It has reignited my love of Jane Austen.
Phillipa_T wrote: Fabulous show - Austen's Women, the title says it all, but experiencing it is worth getting out of your chair to go see. anth_b wrote: Rebecca Vaughan is superb! Brilliantly conceived and wonderful to have been a part of such a fantastic performance - well done! My pick of the fringe this year!
SharonAnn wrote: This show is just brilliant! Pleased to see so many men in the audience, obviously enjoying the show - funny, sad and satirical, it is a tour de force by Rebecca Vaughan, she brought Austen's characters to life.
SJT wrote: An Austen fan, but not a fanatic, I found this show engrossing. As characters reveal themselves, it's hard to believe that there is only one talented performer on stage. Clever, moving, funny and even scathing - a top show!
Mona_Lisa wrote: AA delightful hour spent watching an imaginative performer artfully change characters in a split second, whilst bringing to life some of the most memorable women from Austens books. I for one will go back and read the books again.
Kirstie wrote: This is an absolute MUST SEE for any lover of Jane Austen -this performance is clever, engaging and simply outstanding! A wonderful selection of characters from the most popular and some of the more obscure novels - and somehow embodies them all in mad succession! It is a true celebration and makes you want to run off and read them all again. This actress deserves to be hugely successful. Thanks for a great show!
OrchidGirl wrote: I loved it! To be transported into the world of Jane Austen, and to be surrounded by the satire and the humour as well as the darker sides of being a Regency woman. A little gem. Go and see it - whether you love Jane Austen or not. Well worth it!
helenh wrote: A wonderful experience with brilliant snapshots of many of Austen's memorable characters. Rebecca slips, seemingly without effort, from one character to another, linking them all with Austen's own words and making clear the background from which Austen's wit and wisdom sprang. From her Mrs Norris - chillingly brilliant - to her Catherine Morland - delightfully sweet, Rebecca shows a stunning versatility and knowledge of Austen's works of genius. Brava!
fringeonmyface wrote: Wasn't sure how this would be going into it. But loved every second! Very enjoyable show and a pleasant night out. I'll be going back and reading some more Austen.
tankililla_ wrote: an amazing performance Rebecca play to her full potential every time.
JMH wrote: Totally agree with previous reviewers - wonderfully put together & excellently performed.
PamelaB wrote: What a wonderful show! I've read a couple of Jane Austen's novels, but this has absolutely encouraged me to go back and read more! It was subtle, funny and beautiful, told a narrative all of its own, and revealed that human nature never truly changes. Fabulous!
halcyondaze wrote: Conception and delivery is first rate. My only quibble is a worry that some more modern sensibilities inflected certain (historical) characters. And its always difficult seeing a rendition of a particular character that is different to how you understand them yourself... Good theatre leaves you with thoughts and questions that linger beyond the duration of the play, which this one does admirably.
DanSA wrote: Bloody brilliant! The actress is like a jukebox with all of Jane Austen's Greatest Hits. I've never read a Jane Austen novel or seen an adaptation but was thoroughly entertained. She changed between character's effortlessly. There were lots and laughs plus a little bit of angst and a few tears. Very English and very brilliant!
Vinylcutter wrote: I wasn't sure what to expect as I don't know much about Jane Austen but my partner wanted to go. But it was sensational. The characters sprang to life and Vaughan's voices were wonderful. One of her characters wept real tears - how does she do that?! My partner said her clothes and the props looked straight out of the 19th century. Apparently, she researched and put this together using exactly Austen's words. How clever can people be! And I agree with the other review - sexy indeed!
Madame_P wrote: Rebecca Vaughan is Jane Austen! I happen to be an Austen fan, but I saw the show with my boyfriend who knew nothing about her books, and we both LOVED IT! I marvelled at the details of the show (oh, that costume is divine!). He wanted me to write: The characters are both funny and touching - and it is totally accessible for those who have never come across Austen before. BRILLIANT!
Mia wrote: Short scenes featuring several of the female characters appearing in Austen's books are strung together via well chosen narration from various texts. Austen's words lend themselves well to this editing and the clever wit and genial humour of the original writing is brought to life in an amusing fashion. Fans will love it but knowledge of the books is not necessary. Some characterisations did seem a bit repetitive, but overall it was a cleverly constructed piece which was delightfully rendered.
CaptainCat wrote: "Gorgeous!" That is the word that sums up this lovely nugget. Rebecca Vaughan almost embodies Jane Austen as she romps through her works hand-picking the choice moments and serving them up sumptuously! She is chameleon like in her ability to become all the different women - from the boisterous Lizzy Bennet to the devastatingly moving Marianne Dashwood. The language is pure Austen and Vaughan is the perfect interpreter. Every accent, nuance & movement is superbly pitched. & Oh so sexy! EXCELLENT!
Fringer wrote: A delight for Austen fans, and an insight for those new to her works. Rebecca takes us on an energetic and engaging tour of Austen's women, coursing through a variety of accents and personalities without slipping or losing a beat. She comingles the pathos of unrequited love with the light humour of Austen's more eccentric characters in a perfect, bitter-sweet mix. Costume shifts from country girl to belle of the ball. Rebecca's performance is energetic, enthusiastic, passionate and sensitive.