Jane Austen as we have never seen her portrayed before
Reviewed at Ayers House Museum on 8 March 2019
Presented by Umbrella Works Inc & Sense & Spontaneity
Jessica Messenger, one of the talented actors who make up the Perth based duo Sense and Spontaneity, gives the audience a very clever and witty performance as Jane Austen: Private Eye and introduces us to a side of Jane Austen we’ve never seen before.
The setting in Ayers House is just perfect for the performance as Messenger, dressed in a modest Regency style gown, completed with crocheted fichu, tells us the gruesome tale of a murder in 1817. Two young friends have attended a dance and come home a little tipsy. Sometime in the night, Miss C leaves the bed they are sharing and is found strangled on the Common the next morning.
With no set and minimal props, a box, 3 lamps and a small guitar, played to great effect, Messenger is able to create a whole world of situations and emotions. True elements of Austen’s life, such as her increasingly debilitating illness, are skilfully woven into the narrative. She begins in the style of the famous author, describing Austen’s visit to the murder scene in a letter to a her sister Cassandra, but then things go completely haywire when she faints.
This is where the whimsical and uproarious stories Sense and Spontaneity are known for really take flight as Jane Austen suddenly finds herself at the same place but in a different time. She is at an eerily similar murder scene in 1967 where, once again, a young woman has been strangled after a dance.
Messenger’s characterisations of at least 5 different people – both men and women – is brilliantly done through different accents, stances and facial expressions. Her ‘John Thornton’ is distinctly creepy. And she maintains this exceptional performance throughout the hour long piece.
I would have given this performance 5 stars if not for the clicks and buzzes of the camera. While I appreciate the need for pictures of the performance for future publicity, in such an intimate setting the least the photographer could have done was use a camera with a ‘silent’ mode to minimise distraction.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Venue: State Dining Room at Ayers House Museum, 288 North Tce, Adelaide
Season: 9-10 March 2019 at 8.30pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: $25.00 Concession $23.00