What's the Jane Austen News this week?
Willoughby on Sense and Sensibility
In an article published in The Telegraph, this week we were surprised to find out that in his youth, Greg Wise (aka John Willoughby from the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility) came close to giving up acting, which would have meant that he would never have met the love of his life, Dame Emma Thompson (who played Elinor Dashwood in the 1995 film, as well as writing the screenplay for it)!
The work I’m paid to do as an actor is really play. An awful lot of people who work in any form of arts have to have a childlike quality. A lot of us are quite childish as well.
My parents wanted me to get a degree, so I studied architecture in Edinburgh for three years first. Although I never really wanted to be an architect, I’m thrilled I did it. I think everyone should do a year of architecture; it opens your eyes up to what is mainly really shoddy design.
Early in my final year I auditioned for drama school and ended up moving to Glasgow. I didn’t start earning until I was 25 – then after 18 months I decided to retire from acting. My closest friend, Simon, had drowned. I remember sitting opposite my agent, who was in tears, as I said I was giving up. I took myself off to Australia for six months and got my head together. I came back and I’ve loved working since. I’ve never worked a great deal. It’s not been a career so much as a series of choices that you make for the best reasons at the time. Although if I don’t say Sense and Sensibility [written by and starring Emma Thompson, Wise’s wife] stands out in my career, I’ll get divorced. That was an amazing piece of work and I met the love of my life. I wasn’t paid very much, though.
We enjoyed reading a little bit more about Greg Wise and his changing relationship with acting, so we hope you did too.
Austen Trail Ruined By Miscreants
On Sunday 28th October this year, the town of Basingstoke installed a twelve-plaque trail around the town to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Jane's death. The trail plaques were engraved with fragments of different Austen quotes, so that the whole trail had to be followed in order to understand the full quote. Sadly, two of the brass plaques have already been stolen. One of the quotes which was stolen reads: “There was a scarcity of men in general, and still a greater scarcity of any that were good for much”. Mr Howe, the managing director of Hidden Britain Tours, who was one of those installing the trail, said that the stolen plaques will be replaced but he is still hoping the originals will be returned to him.
Whoever stole them must have acted pretty quickly as the product I used to put them in place is pretty stern stuff once it sets.
A Review of The Watsons on Stage
If you're a fan of stage adaptations of Austen's novels, then you might like to know that Laura Wade’s bold and playful adaptation of The Watsons
, one of Austen’s unfinished novels, has been receiving five-star reviews from practically every critic who's been to see it.
I loved Wade’s approach because it is playful and serious at the same time. It wrestles with the impertinence of completing a literary fragment, yet it rejoices in the limitless possibilities this affords. Writers sometimes tell you that a character has the capacity to dictate events. Wade has seized on this tension between authorial control and imaginative freedom to create a stunning play.
Michael Billington for The Guardian
It can't have been the easiest play to direct but it fizzes with life, rattles along at a cracking pace and provides an entertaining an evening as I've seen this year.
Maxwell Cooter for What's On Stage
The Watsons is playing at the Minerva theatre in Chicester until December the 1st.
This Week's Recommended Read
This week's recommended read is Zing Tsjeng's Forgotten Women: The Writers. When Jane Austen was writing she was doing so under an incredible amount of pressure, but she overcame the obstacles in her way to publish some of the best books ever written. At the Jane Austen News we have huge amounts of respect for female authors who have done likewise and published against the odds, so when we saw this book by Zing Tsjeng we were instantly intrigued. It tells the stories of forty-eight "unsung genius female writers" such as Aemilia Lanyer -one of the first women in Britain to publish a book of poetry and the first to seek to make a living off her pen, and Enheduanna - a Mesopotamian princess and priestess who lived in about 2500 BC and who composed about 42 hymns and poems on clay tablets. A highly interesting and inspirational read which highlights some of the female writers who, unlike Jane and for various reasons, have been mostly forgotten until now.
Jane Austen News
is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world.