Sonali Nandi reviews

The Lyceum's Talk Show: How Jane Austen Invented the Modern World

After seeing Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of) at the Lyceum Theatre,  I was intrigued to see what would be said at the Lyceum's corresponding Talk Show inspired by the production.

The guest speakers were both well selected and extremely knowledgable on Jane Austen's work and her life. Led by Mariella Frostrop, she was joined by Helena Kelly, author of Jane Austen, the Secret Radical, Helen McClory, a Scottish writer, and Emma Claire Sweeney, Director of The Ruppin Agency Writers' Studio and a lecturer at the Open University.

The discussion was framed with music from "the fragrant" (as she was introduced by Mariella Frostrop) Siobhan Wilson, a locally based singer-songwriter, whose voice was delightfully haunting.

The topic of the conversation largely followed the speakers' thoughts on McArthur's adaptation, and often, how this compared to the original novel. However, they also discussed Jane Austen's image in the modern world, and the fact that she is less uptight and proper as people seem to assume.

Whilst the talk was animated, interesting, and rather funny, there was the assumption that everybody in the room was very familiar with Jane Austen and her works. Truthfully, everybody in the theatre that evening most probably was, myself included. Yet, because the play that inspired the Talk Show is extremely accessible to all, Austen fanatics and novices alike, it did surprise me to find that this was not so much the case at this event.

The evening ended with the panel reading out alternate endings written by the audience to Pride and Prejudice's famous first line: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man...' In keeping with Jane Austen and the evening as a whole, these were witty, biting, and often political.

Talk Show is supported by James and Morag Anderson.

Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) runs at the Lyceum Theatre until 15 February 2020.