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.
- Honour Bayes