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Jun 27th, 2019
The wit and heart of Jane Austen shine brightly in this dazzlingly written and executed deconstruction of an early, unfinished work from the famous author, fantastically 'completed' by Laura Wade.
Presenting the story of spirited heroine Emma Watson (a glorious Grace Molony) who's been cast back upon her church-mice poor family after a childhood spent as the pet of a rich aunt. Now sequestered in deepest darkest Surrey, she must enter local society and find a husband - thus saving her family from penury and getting that proper Austen ending.
Peopled by a wonderful assortment of Austen archetypes - the snooty rich neighbours, harridan inlaws, a bumbling local nobleman, a caddish adonis, a kind-hearted parson and swoon, the Militia - Emma's world is classic Jane, but just as she's on the verge of making a life-changing decision, it's all pulled down by a plucky servant - our very own Miss Wade, who's come to finish the story where the first writer abandoned it.
But very quickly, it becomes clear to Wade that despite her own hopes for the characters, this isn't going to be as straightforward as just wrapping up loose ends, especially when said characters have become self-aware. Hilarity and chaos ensue as the straight-laced Georgians realise they are under neither Austen nor Wade's control any longer and cut loose, drink, debauch and extoll the virtues of free-will. As Wade's influence dwindles, they only grow in power, the fabulously talented ensemble mining through her subconscious and becoming very un-Austen indeed.
More than just a continuation, The Watsons slowly unravels into something much more clever, a meta meditation on the life and motivations (and sometimes lack thereof) a writer can face. Wade expertly presents herself as a romantic, initially seduced by Austen's creations, yet unable to marry it to her own, modern outlook - a conundrum echoed by her riotous charges who's bad behavior soon leaves her both physically and mentally wiped out - can she wrest back the reins? That would be telling.
Whilst I don't want to spoil it for you, it is truly a wonderful play, deftly directed (props to Samuel West), acted, designed, one that fulfills every discerning lover of Austen's fantasy of being part of the story and adds more, asking us why we feel that way, and what would probably happen if we were. Charming and riotously entertaining, and like the woman whose work it's based on - packs a memorable and satirical punch.
View our show pages for more information about The Watsons, Menier Chocolate Factory.
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