is as delightful an actress as ever appeared on stage. With a bright eye and a
charming ankle, Ms Vaughan twinkles her way through Austen’s Women with great aplomb.
Like a well
constructed greatest hits concert, Vaughan shows us Jane Austen’s most infamous
heroines with a couple of lesser known oddities thrown in for the fans. It is clearly a labour of love and a
very sweet night out for it, albeit a sedate one.
As we go from the
lively Lizzie Bennet to the sharp Mrs Norris, from the squirrely Miss Bates to
a sobbing Marianne Dashwood, Vaughan embodies each of her characters with a
rich sense and sensibility. She is a performer with infinite charm whose handle
on each of these remarkable women is proudly shown through a cavalcade of
distinctive ticks and quirks. But as the night draws on and the candle gets
lower, it is hard not to see all of these rich characters blending together
into one being.
But perhaps this
is the point. Whilst Austen was a proponent of sensible attachments, she was
also a die hard romantic and this piece is full of her brilliant
contradictions. In a modern world she is still a voice of both reason and
passion and her wit is illuminated in this vivacious show.
What is lacking
in this specific look at her women is a sense of Austen’s brilliant social
commentary and whilst the parts that Vaughan, as the narrator, has co-written
(along with director Guy Masterson) are in the original author’s style, they do at times feel slightly like
fillers for the sparkling monologues that follow.
But in the world
of ‘easy come, easy go’ immediacy, Austen’s cleverly teasing prose is an
essential nourishment for the soul. Vaughan has done us all a service by
bringing Austen and her women centre stage.