Emma Approved – First 10 Episodes: The Review

I have been very nervous about watching Emma Approved. I loved The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but I wasn’t sure how a version of Emma would be – especially as a modernisation(well not so modern now…) was done in Clueless.

10 Episodes in: I love it! Emma(played by the fantastic Joanna Sotomura) is as delightfully annoying as she is in the books. Hilarious, but in a way that makes you want to tell her to shut up. In a good way. I know there are a lot of people who don’t like Emma, because she is, well, meddling, but I love that she is so self-assured, and unlike the other Austen heroines, she will not be dependent on the income of our husband, which makes her love story the most equal. We have Mr Knightly(or Snarky Knightly Brent Bailey ) present as a friend who co-runs their business, which is a nice twist to show their equal status and to take away the slighty icky Mr Knightly knowing Emma as a baby aspect of the story. I love that Emma is older, and much more together in terms of work than the Bennets – both Pemberley Digital stories really reflect the tone of the books in a much more effective way than I imagined.

I think I am Harriet! I always apologise for things that aren’t my fault, and I’m ridiculously clumsy. Looking forward to the rejections of Harriet play out – in the books they are so much about class, can’t wait to see the Pemberley Digital take. Hope it’ll be as great as the reworking of the Lydia storyline in the LBD’s.

Finally, I really enjoyed the take on the Weston’s – a part of the book that’s over and done with by the time it starts, its great to see a bit more of the build up. Looking forward to meeting Frank Churchill too!  Oh and Miss Bates. And Mr Woodhouse, most of all! Hope we do actually get to see him at some point. 

So, those are my thoughts so far. Let me know what you think!



I’m Back!!

I have been very lax about this blog since the tour of An Evening at Home with the Austens finished. Very sorry about that! I have now decided to start it up again, as Pemberley Digital have some lovely offerings I’ve yet to watch. I started Welcome to Sanditon, but never finished it, and now there’s Emma as well. Slightly nervous about Emma, as its my favourite book by Austen, but fingers crossed!

Also, the BBC version of Death Comes to Pemberley is on my Sky+ Box, waiting to be watched, so will be recording my thoughts on that too. 

For now though – toodles! 

We’re Ready!

A week tomorrow we’ll be performing our first show in Cornwall – and at the end of our last rehearsal on Friday I definitely felt like we were ready.

When starting the crowdfunding campaign, we thought we would need 5 full days of rehearsal, so were raising enough money to cover those costs. However, as it became clear we wouldn’t reach our target, we initially scheduled just 4 possible rehearsal dates. One of these dates was unavailable, so we booked two, with the possibility of adding a third if needed. Which it didn’t! 

I already talked about our first day back – so on our second day of rehearsal, we went through entrances and exits. I figured out that I only ever enter from stage right, which made the whole thing pretty easy to remember! We then did a run, which went well – apart from a few fluffed lines – so followed with a line run. I’ll be going over my lines every day until the show, and we’ll have the nice long car journey to line run as well. So overalll, we’re feeling pretty geared up!

For those still interested in backing us – its the last day of the campaign – sponsume.com/project/evening-home-austens! I also thought I should let you know about how we’re spending the money that has been donated so far. An amount we haven’t worked out yet will be taken off for the website and for paypal. The rest will be £90 towards rehearsal costs, a donation in thanks for the loan of costumes, and whatever is left we’ll divide between the 3 of us, which will at least go towards expenses!

On the crowdfunding campaign, of course it would have been great to meet our total. I’m not entirely sure why we didn’t get fully funded, but I think these things are still a gamble. It has been an interesting learning curve for me, and I have been enjoying writing this blog. I will definitely continue with this blog until the show is over, and will keep posting whenever I have anything Austen-y to say! This mini-tour to Cornwall won’t be the end of An Evening at Home with the Austens – the hope to tour it again for a longer time is still very much alive! 

Info about the Cornwall tour and ticket bookings are here: http://www.ruffledumbrella.co.uk/RUC/An_Evening_at_Home_with_The_Austens.html

Back in rehearsals!

Yesterday was our first rehearsal since our first performance of An Evening at Home with the Austens in April. And it went really well! Remembering lines was much easier than expected – most of them stuck, and I don’t think it’ll take too many goings over to make them all back again! 

We started the day with a chat about what bits of the show we’d like to improve, about how the crowdfunding campaigns doing, and about the publicity for the tour. Those latter are obviously important, but not the main focus of the day. 

The sections that we felt needed improving – a change in costume to represent one of the male characters I play(a riding crop being exchanged for the more obvious coat) which also had the added benefit of making a joke work better, some work on the women playing men – it won’t ever be as funny as a man making a woman, but the change should make it funnier, some character work on Mary Stanhope(for me at my request) and some jigging around of entrances and exits to make some of the clunkier bits clearer.

We then did a fairly low energy to mark it through, make sure we remembered our lines(which we mostly did) and when we were supposed to come on and off stage and where different bits of costume and props come(which I mostly didn’t) We then had a further discussion of other bits worth going over, then broke for lunch. 

Non-related to the show, but we did have a rather entertaining lunch, due to the neighbours next door to where we were rehearsing having various screaming matches. Not at us thankfully, but it did rather liven up our lunch break! I was then disappointed by what I thought were bluberries when I’d packed them into my lunch that morning, only to discover they were olives when I opened the tupperware 😦 

Anyway, so back to the show! After lunch we fine tuned the areas we’d picked out before lunch, and went over Sir William Montague which needed a bit of going over after the run, we then had (surprisingly) time to do another run! Which went much better, so we are generally feeling very confident about the whole thing.

Our next rehearsal is on Friday, and my homework before then is to watch the DVD of the show, and see if I think of any other sections which could do with the changes. My next post will be about that, and I find the always slightly painful experience of watching myself on film.

Phoebe 🙂

Re-Learning Lines

Ah, line learning. The one thing non-actors always say after a show is “How do you remember all those lines?” There’s not really a trick to it – if there was I could save a lot of time! Its just repetition, repetition, repetition. As a friend I was doing a play with a year or so ago reminded me, when I said how glad I was we didn’t have to revise for exams when studying “What do you think learning lines is?”

Re-learning lines is slightly different, as it ideally, shouldn’t take as long. Audition monologues in particular tend to stick – whether that’s a good thing, as you may lose the freshness of them – is another issue.  So ideally, this process shouldn’t take to long. I had my first sit down today to look at my big monologue that starts the second half – this part of the play is based on Austen’s “Three Sisters” and I play Mary Stanhope. The monologue is lifted from a letter so it works well on stage and as a nice opener to the second act(Hats off to Isabel Snowden, who edited the script)

Anyway, so back to lines. So far, so good! Its interesting learning something that wasn’t written to be spoken aloud, as the rhythm is slightly different. Shakespeare – while it has the difficulty of an older form of English – the iambic pentameter means I find it quite simple. Jane Austen’s language – not so much. I’ve mentioned on an earlier blog about how the punctuation has caused an issue. I am still getting my head around it, but second time around, its coming easier! 

Anyone else have experience performing Austen? Would love to hear about it if you have!

Phoebe 🙂

Welcome to Sanditon

So, I cracked. I meant to wait until I re-read Sanditon before I watched the new web series from Pemberley Digital, but then I got another email from Youtube telling me a channel I subscribed to had uploaded a video, and I gave in.

Because I’ve only read Sanditon once, and a long time ago, I can’t really compare the two at this point – obviously Georgiana Darcy isn’t the lead in the unfinished novel! But I can give you my thoughts…

I liked it – but it has gripped me in the same way as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Lydia Bennet. I think its lacking the family and friendships that are so strong in those stories. The videos are meant for Darcy, and we see Gigi making new friends, but its not the same as that strong familial bond we’ve seen before. And Gigi is so much more of an observer, rather than being an intricate part of the story. It doesn’t make it bad – its all still well written, edited and acted as I still believe they are real people, but it just isn’t as engaging. However, we’re still early on, and it doesn’t have the luxury of being a story we all know really well even before its started. 

I think someone mentioned to me that it is an experiment in creating a story using the web – and I thought the clips of real people from Sanditon, California were really interesting. I am definitely getting a sense of the personality of the place – even more so than some of the people! Which, I guess, is all we really have from the novel, so in that case, the web series has been a success. I’m looking forward to seeing where the story takes us. Also, as I believe this web series is shorter than The LBD, I’m excited to find out what their next one will be! Any guesses?

Phoebe 🙂 

We’re getting close…

Hi everyone! I’ve just got back from a fantastic weekend performing with the other company I work with – Natural Diversions – at Glastonbury Festival! And slowly getting my head back around everything Austen.

Had the lovely surprise of another backing over the weekend – just £5 but every little helps! If we don’t reach our total, we have to pay 9% of what we make to Sponsume, the website that hosts us. Our first mini-aim was to get to £300 as that would cover the hire of the rehearsal space, and we’ve just inched over it so should now be able to cover the 9% on top of that. We’ve been lucky enough to have someone offer to loan us the costumes for this short run, so that is one short term issue we don’t have to worry about – however, we hope to do a longer run in the autumn, so will need to find the money for that at some point. The biggest cost of the show – and what is the biggest outlay in any business – is our salary. We are aiming for Equity minimum – £410 a week – but any money we gain now should hopefully be divided three ways. If it at least covers our expenses, that would make a massive difference to us. It can be quite disheartening to lose money on a production. We will give it our all no matter what, and acting is a career you choose for the love of it, not for the money, but the aim is to make a living at it. That this is hard to do has always been the case, but since the recession it has got harder. The Arts Council’s budget has been cut and cut in this climate of austerity and while there are a number of philanthropic trusts out there, often what they support is very specific. Some prefer to support capital projects, some specifically those that are participatory, and some prefer to donate to the bigger companies such as the RSC and The National. The politics of the arts cuts is not something I want to go into, and obviously philanthropic bodies have their own criteria of who they support, which I’m not going to argue with.

It is these reasons, plus the time period between the first production in April and the next few in July, that I suggested crowdfunding as the route to focus on for the project. I was hoping to engage people who have a love of Jane Austen, and that our rewards would be very exciting! However, there are some that I expected to be popular which haven’t been so far – such as the drawings of you in Regency dress, and copies of the DVD and script. So now I am turning to you, readers of this blog, to ask you what you think would inspire to back a project, if some of our prizes interest you but you think are priced to high, or if its just harder to get behind something UK based if you are based in the US? If you could comment below on what you think that would be a huge help – and don’t worry, I have no expectation on you to donate if you suggest something! I just think it might be worth a change up to see if we can drum up more interest, and as I know a lot of the readers of this blog are Austenites, your opinions would be a huge help. Please comment below! The page is here http://www.sponsume.com/project/evening-home-austens

I’m going to be relearning my lines this week, before we go back into rehearsals, so I’ll be keeping you updated on how both of those are going – and obviously how it all goes on the tour! 

Phoebe : ) 

Wrapped up in a £10 Note

I’m not sure how many UK based readers I have on this blog, or how many of you have been following the controversy over the next £5 in the UK. Basically, on the back of every note, there is a picture of a historical figure whose made a contribution to British Society. Currently, there is only one woman(bar the Queen, who is on the front of every note) on a note, and that is Elizabeth Fry a social and prison reformer from the 1800s. However, its time for that note to be changed, and Winston Churchill has been picked to replace her. I have nothing against Winston Churchill, and he is obviously a key figure in our history, but I completely understand the uproar. It seems completely fair to replace a woman with a woman, especially as all the others are men. In fact, I think the treasury should be moving towards a 50% split of important women in our history – there is a huge amount to choose from. And it would be such a simple way of making sure those women are in peoples conciousness, and to show women have contributed equally to society.

The most recent news in “Notegate” is that the next note due for a change – the £10 – will feature Jane Austen! No date as yet, but in the next few years she’ll be in lots of peoples wallets and pockets! Hopefully a trend will follow and lots of other women will appear on notes in the future.


Phoebe x

The Militia

By militia, I specifcally mean that of Jane Austen’s time. You know, the ones that don’t go anywhere, or fight anyone. Or as when Isabel explained to me when I asked in rehearsal “they’re kind of like Dad’s army”

An Evening at Home with the Austens is set in 1792, just before Henry Austen was about to set off to join the Militia – one of his many, many different careers(keep an eye out for when the Austen facts on our Twitter are about him! @RuffledUmbrella) People in the Militia are often mentioned in many of her books, at the forefront of my mind while I’m writing, is George Wickham. 

So I took it upon myself to do some research – the Jane Austen Centre in Bath has a factual one here, so for the facts you may as well read this: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/english-army-in-the-regencynapoleonic-war/ I won’t have anything factual to add, just my own rambling thoughts. That what the Militia are is never explained in the books, so they must have been intrinsic in every day society. That it can function as social mobility for men, as seen in Persuasion(please correct me if that’s the Army and not the Militia!). And thirdly, you seem to get paid for not doing a whole lot, and that they as a group are often painted in an unfavourable light, interestingly as Jane’s own brother was a part of one.

I realise I may have said some sweeping inaccurate generalisations in this, so please correct in the comments! I haven’t had time to do much research, so these are just my general musings 🙂


Pride and Prejudice – Re-read complete!

Sorry I’ve not posted for a while. I was away with work at the weekend, and have not been feeling particularly well the last couple of days. However, I have now FINALLY finished my re-read of Pride and Prejudice, part of the challenge set by Little White Dove(I very much recommend her blog, if you don’t already follow it: http://thedovenest.wordpress.com/)

Here are some of my thoughts:

Mr and Mrs Gardiner – how did I completely forget about them? They are definitely the nicest – and I expect happiest – of the elder generation in the novel. And I also didn’t remember how important they are to the plot in meaning Elizabeth runs into Darcy again. Do they feature in any of the adaptations?

Arg. I wrote much more than this but WordPress has deleted it! I’m afraid I’m going to leave it at that one thought for now as I’m not feeling 100% still – will add more thoughts either later or tomorrow!