Love letters, rejected manuscripts and an intimate evening with the woman who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility…what more could an Austen fan want?
By Dana Lacey
I shoulda known better. I should have known that a play titled “Afternoon tea with Jane Austen” would be a lot like reading Austen herself – clever, occasionally insightful and frightfully boring. It was the story of Jane Austen as told by Jane Austen, who supposedly wants to debunk the kindly-sweet-and-dull aunty persona that has sprung up in the 200 years since she penned some of my high school english teacher’s favourite tomes. And she did achieve this, to a small degree, but not enough to make me see the purpose of the play. Not that the performer didn’t try hard to channel Austen’s considerable wit – and I certainly learned a lot about Austen’s family, love life and rise to stardom in the fledgling and newly popular medium of novel writing. I felt a bit of nostalgia for a time I’ve never seen – when families read to each other as entertainment. And I laughed out loud a few times as Austen struggles to become an author and worries about things like pen names, Royals who force her to dedicate her novels to them, and rejected manuscripts (Northanger Abbey was held for ransom by a publisher for nearly a decade). I loved hearing a reading from her essay about the myriad (and useless) novel suggestions from friends and passersby. The play had plenty of letters from Austen and people in her life that added a bit of heft to the script. But ultimately, unless you’re a diehard Austenian (and there were several in the audience who were busting a gut at the somewhat exclusive inside jokes), you’ll probably be better off reading one of her books instead.
Venue 11 Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave., Toronto
Fri, July 2 10:00 PM – 1111
Sat, July 3 5:00 PM – 1115
Sun, July 4 4:30 PM – 1121
Tue, July 6 3:15 PM – 1132
Wed, July 7 1:15 PM – 1137
Thu, July 8 8:00 PM – 1147
Fri, July 9 3:30 PM – 1150
Sat, July 10 2:45 PM – 1156
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only), Online at www.fringetoronto.com, by Phone at 416-966-1062, in person (June 30 – July 11 only) at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Ave., Toronto) (Advance tickets are $11 ($10+$1 convenience fee), and $5 for FringeKids (no convenience fee for kids tickets).
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows