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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Austen in the dreamscape

Australians may have a complicated relationship with Britain, their one-time mother country, but no such ambivalence seems to pervade their relationship with British writers. Or at least with one British writer in particular.


Last year, a Melbourne theater company whose productions frequently riff on Austen's novels held the latest iteration of its five-year-old Austen Con. Last month, I noted that a prominent Australian politician is said to be a Jane Austen fan who has a particular reverence for Elinor Dashwood. And starting today and continuing through May 7, yet another Melbourne institution, this one a venerable and much-loved home for independent theater, is hosting “By Jane’s Hand,” a . . . unique-sounding homage to Our Author.


Billed as “a whimsical window into the magnificent mind of Jane Austen,” the production--created by Emma and Olivia O'Brien--features three actors playing Austen herself and characters from Pride and Prejudice. The text is by Austen; the music appears to be from Austen’s family songbook; and the hour-long piece was “created/curated from an intergenerational feminist perspective,” which must have made for some lively discussions.


I can’t say that the semi-coherent description of the production -- “This new work from old collides elements of music and verbatim theatre within a dreamscape” – fills me with confidence, but if I were going to be in Melbourne over the next ten days, I’d probably be checking it out. (Tickets cost up to 30 Australian dollars, about $20 of the American kind.) Alas, it’s not going to happen for me, but if you see the show, let us know what you think.

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