The Girl Guides Hut was a great choice of venue for Jane Austen, Action Figure—a feminist 36-scene play that touches on the challenges of identity, working motherhood, love, the female orgasm, heartbreak, leaving home, travel, reputation and being a writer. I am certain there are many occasions where women feel that they need superpowers, which might have accounted for an audience that was almost 90% female at the performance I attended—or perhaps the reputation of 3B Creative, and of Anne Grant (Director), drew a strong local following for this sold out show?
The idea of a play about Jane Austen, where the reviewer refers to the play as being feminist and with 36 scenes may fill some readers with dread. But playwright Elaine Avila has crafted an entertaining play, interweaving many stories from different generations that frequently drew chuckles of recognition from the audience (male and female). Anne Grant has created another Anywhere Festival success.
Each of the 13 actors had the opportunity to shine. I particularly enjoyed the story arc that included the challenge of being a single mother (Libby Glasson created a beautifully-judged, hard-working Mother, during her interactions with Sahana-Rose Hoare’s suitably-childlike Daughter). Equally, the scenes that featured Jane Austen (Louise Tasker)—particularly when with ‘Grey Matter’—were enjoyable and memorable. Jude Pippen (Left Brain) and Joy Marshall (Right Brain) were funny, and absolutely on-point as the voices of doubt and encouragement—and Tasker’s performance was a delight. We saw how Jane Austen could be understood as a heroine as she juggled the frustrations of being a writer in an era where she was expected to provide free child-minding and find a suitable match. Sharon Grimley played a number of roles to great effect (including as a funny Guide [conjuring stereotypical Guide leaders perhaps?], and an entertaining Agatha), and I particularly enjoyed her scenes as Aprhra Behn, with Lover (David Readett).
The Director (Anne Grant) used the space to great effect, the costumes and props were perfect (Stage Manager, Robin Hungerford, no doubt supporting the fantastic quick-change work by the cast), and the sound provided a suitable backdrop without being too invasive (Bruce Hamilton, Errol R J Morrison). Of course working in a Girl Guides Hut has limitations )perhaps a few additional/alternative light sources next time?), but this didn’t affect the experience for the audience.
I’d love to have had the chance to attend a ‘Q&A’ with the creatives and cast, and to hear more about their work on the piece. Perhaps an idea for any future Anywhere Festival shows produced by 3B Creative? Oh, and if you are interested, a quick internet search will get you a gift-boxed Jane Austen action figure, complete with quill pen… to sit alongside your Shakespeare action figure, of course… But seeing the Show may have made a more lasting impression.
Verdict: Great performances, and excellent use of the space, in this thought-provoking (and funny) show.
Audience tip: 90 mins. 15+ (some sexual references). Toilet facilities are only available outside the performance space (adjacent portaloo), so ushers do encourage patrons to ‘visit’ before taking their seats. Wheelchair access across grassed area. Jane Austen, Action Figure ($22) had a total of six performances during the 2019 Anywhere Festival (17,18, 24 and 25 May, 2019). If visiting another show at this venue, arrive early, BYO snacks and enjoy the stunning view.
The reviewer attended the Saturday 25 May 2019 performance (2pm), at the Buderim Girl Guides Hut (111, Burnett Street).
Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.