AUSTENSIBILITY – Edinburgh Fringe

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✭✭✭✩✩   Celebratory

Mayfield Salisbury Church  (Venue 11): Mon 10-Fri 14 Aug 2015

The Mercators are back at the Fringe this year with Austensibility; an engaging dramatised reading celebrating the life and works of Jane Austen.

Born from their 2004 production of Universally Acknowledged, this is a revised and reimagined piece honouring the great 18th century novelist.

The script by Alan Richardson is drawn from Austen’s works, personal letters, a memoir by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh and various biographies. And what emerges is truly a labour of love for the author and her works.

With no set of any kind, the small cast of six enter bedecked in costumes of the period devised by May Kelly. Their accompaniments being small black folders which they present their dramatic readings from.

The production unfolds curiously with three strands – part lecture, part excerpts from beloved texts and part real life. Austen’s real life story is now a familiar one to many, following the release of the film, Becoming Jane in 2007. The Mercators also bring out detailed musings direct from Austen’s letters which add a certain charm to the production.

While the narration can be quite dry in parts, this is often countered by short acted scenes from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma, among others – small familiar gems to delight the audience.

animated, witty and engaging

It is within these scenes that the production really comes alive. Josie Duncan often takes centre stage during these scenes, alternating with ease between Jane and her characters. Duncan is animated, witty and engaging as we imagine Austen would also have been. She is ably supported by Angela Binnie, Douglas Currie, Bart Dignan, Susan Wales and Jim Witcomb.

This production is very much a celebration of the author’s life. It is an amalgamation of both fact and fiction which provides an introduction to Austen’s works. However, there is a sense that it’s really a production for old fans who already know and love the texts and not for a new audience seeking an introduction.

The Mercators have produced a very pleasant and amiable production, but it does rather leave a desire to relive the novels again!

Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Mayfield Salisbury Church (Venue 11) 18 West Mayfield, EH9 1TQ
Monday 1- Friday 14 August 2015
Daily: 6pm.
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/Austensibility
Company website: http://www.themercators.org.uk/

ENDS

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Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.

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