The Happiest Medium Review by Guest Contributor Linnea Covington
Most little girls grow up reading the works of Jane Austen, be it Emma, Sense and Sensibility, or Pride and Prejudice. Some boys also read her stories, but usually that’s a school assignment. But, no matter how you digest this early 19th Century author, one thing remains consistent – you never learn much about her actual life. In Tali Brady’s one-woman play Afternoon Tea With Jane Austen, the Montreal-based actress and playwright attempts to share this history with you.
It’s an excellent way to become acquainted with Austen, and while Brady wrote a wonderfully fluid play chock full of personal details, fetching narratives, and historical information about the author, she doesn’t always execute her role as Austen well. The show started out slow as she bumbled around the who’s-who in Austen’s family, and even though she said herself that it was boring, it still shouldn’t have been. This isn’t because of the subject matter but more of Brady reciting her lines like she’s dictating instead of storytelling.
Luckily, this vibe doesn’t maintain through the entire play. When Brady talks about Austen’s love life and the process she went through to write and publish her books, pure excitement shone through and Brady’s acting became convincing. The same thing happened when she spoke multiple characters’ parts and when she accompanied her tale with the few and far between sound effects—a tool I think would help calm her obvious nervousness.
Despite the energy fluxes in the show, Brady earned kudos for tackling an hour-long play and taking the stage alone. She managed to perk up near the end and demonstrate the intriguing character that is Jane Austen without completely dulling the audience. For example, did you know Austen had been in love only once and later in life turned down a chance at a compatible marriage preferring to remain a spinster rather than marry without feeling? No? Neither did I. Bits of information like that tickled me.
Ultimately though, next time, given it’s about having tea with an author, I would like to see Brady actually drink tea out of the cup and do it like a lady instead of like someone doing shots. I mean, what would Mr. Darcy say?
~~~Afternoon Tea with Jane Austen Company: Orange Wine Productions Directed by: Bruce Lambie Feb 27, 9:30PM Feb 29, 6:30PM Mar 02, 9:30PM Mar 04, 3:30PM $16.00 The Red Room