The ensuing flight was made up of silent crying, snuffling through tiny bottles of wine and looking for cinematic escapism. Having long been a fan of the bonnet drama I was therefore excited to watch Becoming Jane, an Austen biopic about a young Jane, (Anne Hathaway), and her flirtation with the Irish charmer and possible Mr Darcy inspiration, Thomas Langlois Lefroy (James McAvoy).
I was happily immersed in the constitutionals and countenances when I suddenly realised that Jane’s romantic life [SPOLIER ALERT] wasn’t going to end well. Cue more tears, more remembering my failed romance and many more tiny wines. I got over the fireman eventually (yes FIREMAN) but that movie always stuck in my mind as an intimate moment between Jane and myself.
The following year on invitation from the Wellington Improv Festival I developed a new format called Austen Found. This was an improvised Austen-esque musical and was so happily successful that we delicately toured through NZ and to Adelaide, always carefully covering our ankles as we went. Touring a large show is, however, a strain on one’s purse strings and so I developed a solo show in a similar vein; Promise and Promiscuity.
And then, just before it ponced the boards I got an email from my uncle in Australia: “You seem to do a lot with Jane Austen, did you know you are related to her boyfriend Thomas Langlois Lefroy? He is your fifth great uncle.”
I couldn’t believe it. James McAvoy… MY uncle! Uncy Thomas (who became the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland) had a nephew who moved to Australia whose progeny amazingly led to me. He is my Great Grandmother’s Great Grandfather’s brother. Bloody hell.
The story of Tom and Jane suddenly took on extra resonance. Particularly the precarious nature of a woman’s lot in a time when marriage prospects were dictated by her assets, and not the ones I am abundant in. Tom went onto to marry a wealthier woman and live to the overripe age of 94 after persecuting many a Catholic in Ireland, whereas Jane Austen died unwed at only 41 having produced some of the most influential works of the English language.
I therefore hope that my comic tale of a young woman desperate to become a writer in an age where this was so unthinkable that Jane Austen herself wasn’t published for over a decade, and then only did so initially under the pseudonym “A Lady”, does her proud. I have borrowed 33 of her own genius lines to make up for all my silliness and happily Beethoven and Strauss et al let me pilfer from them as well.
And in an Austen-ever-after ending, a year and a half ago I got married, succumbing to yet another British attack of the tall handsome kind. Luckily this is 2017 though, and my current assets were happily more than enough for him. And… I am 43.
Need to Know:
Oct 4 – CONGLETON – Clonter Opera Theatre, clonter.org, 01260 224 514
Oct 5 – BIRMINGHAM – Old Joint Stock Theatre, oldjointstock.co.uk, 0121 200 0946
Oct 6 – SHREWSBURY – Walker Theatre, theatresevern.co.uk, 01743 281281
Oct 10 – MILTON KEYNES – Stantonbury Theatre, stantonburytheatre.co.uk, 01908 324466
Oct 12 – 14 – LONDON – Greenwich Theatre, greenwichtheatre.org.uk, 020 8858 7755
Oct 16 – WINCHESTER – Theatre Royal, theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk, 01962 840 440
Oct 18 – FAREHAM – Ashcroft Arts Centre, Osborn Rd, ashcroft.org.uk, 01329 2231100
Oct 20 – NEW MILTON – Forest Arts Centre, forest-arts.co.uk, 01425 612393
Oct 26 – CANTERBURY – Canterbury Festival, canterburyfestival.co.uk, 01227 787787
Nov 2 – TRALEE – Siamsa Tíre – siamsatire.com, 066 7123055
Nov 3 – KILLMALLOCK – Friar’s Gate Theatre, www.friarsgate.ie, 063 98727
Nov 9 – NENAGH – Nenagh Arts Cente, nenagharts.com, 067 34400
Nov 10 – LIMERICK, Belltable, limetreetheatre.ie, 061 953400
Nov 15 – WINDMERE – Old Laundry Theatre, oldlaundrytheatre.co.uk, 015394 40872