“It’s exciting to be contributing to the Jane Austen 200 celebrations, with performances of Young Jane and Meeting Miss Austen, my adaptations inspired by Austen’s Juvenilia.” – Cecily O’Neill
The exuberance and absurdity of the short novels, plays and letters known as the Juvenilia immediately captured my interest. Many of the characters, situations and issues in these teenage works clearly anticipate Austen’s mature novels, and the dialogue is as funny and revealing as anything she wrote later.
It was the power of the dialogue that made me think these delightful pieces might be adapted for the stage. This is Mary’s first speech from The Three Sisters,
I am the happiest creature in the world! I have received an offer of marriage from Mr Watts! It is the first proposal I have ever had, but I do not intend to accept it. At least I believe I won’t. Mr Watts is quite an old man, at least thirty-two. He’s very plain – so plain that I cannot bear to look at him. He’s also extremely disagreeable and I hate him more than any body else in the world! He has a large fortune but then he’s so very healthy
I could find no evidence that the Juvenilia had previously been dramatized, although the title of the recent film, Love and Friendship, which is based on Austen’s Lady Susan, borrowed the title from one of the minor masterpieces in the Juvenilia.
As well as The Three Sisters, I chose The Visit and Love and Friendship to include in Young Jane. Sell-out performances followed and this was the impetus for publishing the script of Young Jane.
I am currently at work on Meeting Miss Austen, another selection of works from the Juvenilia. One of the most compelling characters is Lady Greville, who prides herself on the fact that she ‘always speaks her mind’. This allows her to be as rude as she likes.