This Spring 2018, Theatre6 is producing a touring production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Artistic Director Kate McGregor discusses why they’ve chosen to adapt the work for six actor musicians, and why Persuasion remains so captivating for today’s audiences. Adapting a novel like Jane Austen’s Persuasion for the stage, from the earliest planning stages until the opening night, is a project that absorbs your days and nights for at least two years. In making the decision to dedicate such time to a piece, it has to be one which you’d like to explore visually, conceptually, emotionally and intellectually. Most importantly, it has to be a story that will excite, captivate and be relevant for your audiences. For Stephanie Dale (the novel’s adapter) and I, our biggest inspiration for working on the piece was the character of Anne. We envisioned how the themes in Persuasion could transcend time and space, and imagined how Jane’s ideas could breathe and thrive in our modern world. A novel must show how the world truly is, how characters genuinely think, how events actually occur, a novel should somehow reveal the true source of our actions – Jane in Becoming Jane. Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, this is a story about heartbreak. It’s about making decisions you regret, about trusting the right people for the wrong reasons. It asks questions about the inner workings of why we love and who loves the longest. Most importantly it’s an expression of Anne inner thoughts (more…)
What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Big news!!! Set to air twenty-five years after Colin Firth first set hearts racing while playing Mr Darcy in the BBC’s 1995 series, is a new TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Mammoth Screen, the makers of the hit series Poldark and Victoria, are currently working on a TV adaption of Pride and Prejudice for ITV. The production firm has said that they’ll focus on “the darker tones” of the novel and have commissioned playwright Nina Raine to adapt the book, though the cast is yet to be confirmed. Raine is an interesting writer to choose for the job as she hasn’t adapted novels for TV before, but her play, Consent, which opened at the National Theatre earlier this year has gained strong reviews. She’s keen to show Austen’s “dark intelligence” and prove that Pride and Prejudice was “actually a very adult book; much less bonnet-y than people assume”.
Damien Timmer, the managing director of Mammoth, told Radio Times: “In this age of the box set – with audiences loving to binge on complex, serialised dramas – it feels absolutely right to reassess the great classics. Every generation needs its own adaptation of this perfect novel.”
Pride and Prejudice has won first place in many different polls looking to find the nation’s favourite book, but it’s not just the UK that loves Austen. New Zealanders are also big Austen fans – with Pride and Prejudice coming in the top 15 of the country’s favourite books, alongside the likes of the Lord of the Rings and 1984.
What really struck us here at the Jane Austen News however were the reading statistics that came out just before the new list of the country’s top 100 books. It shows that New Zealanders read an average of 20 (20.6 to be exact) books a year! Although it also showed that around 394,000 New Zealanders didn’t read a single book during 2016.
How do your reading habits compare?
If you’re quick you might just have time to enter this great competition…
Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Joanna Trollope, Lamn Sissay and Joanne Harris are all taking part in a five-day yoga challenge organised by The Society of Authors in order to raise awareness of how important it is for writers to look after themselves and each other.
By Harold Taw
“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older—the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.”
—Persuasion, Chapter 4
I’ve encountered three reactions from those who learn we’ve adapted Jane Austen’s final complete novel Persuasion as a musical. The first is delight. This comes from people who hold certain Austen adaptations near and dear to their hearts … usually the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The second is indifference. These souls were forced to read Austen in high school and tend to confuse her with Charlotte Brontë. The third is dread. These are Janeites who anticipate a chorus line of naval officers high-kicking atop a painted reproduction of The Cobb in Lyme Regis.
Let me reassure, and perhaps disappoint, everyone: our musical does not feature zombies to attract a teen audience, will not turn Captain Wentworth into an Iraq veteran to show social relevance, and will not relocate Act II from Bath to Havana as an excuse for a climactic mambo. We chose to musicalize Persuasion for a simple and perhaps naïve reason. We believe that if any art form can be true both to the novel’s wit and to its aching melancholy, it is musical theatre … not the musical theatre of spectacle but of emotional immediacy and intimacy.