Jane Austen is Dead… See you at the wake

 Jane Austen is Dead is a one woman show performed by Mel Dodge who plays a bar owner called Sophie, and See You at the Wake explores homelessness.

  MELBOURNE FRINGE FESTIVAL 2011 Presented by: Black Duck Collective  Venue: Gertrudes Brown Couch, Fitzroy Sunday 2 October, 2011 Jane Austen is Dead... see you at the wakeJane Austen is Dead is a one woman show performed by Mel Dodge who plays a bar owner called Sophie. Throughout the piece, Sophie mulls over her love life in relation to the men in Jane Austen’s novels. Dodge also plays other characters from the bar and from Sophie’s life. The clarity between each of her characters, their physical and vocal differences and her comedic timing were absolute highlights. This was particularly evident in the montage of men she ‘video dated’, (including the Bendigo farmer who enjoyed war re-enactments).
What I enjoyed about this piece was that it tackled some tough love topics with endearing literary references to boot. Although Dodge portrayed a strong female character and the show dealt with an interesting theme, it did seem (from a writer’s perspective) that things were explained rather than creatively demonstrated; for example “Hi, I’m Sophie and this is my bar”. The bar location and props seemed superfluous. The theme of 21st century love in relation to Jane Austen’s books and life is interesting enough on it’s own. (I also didn’t believe the incredibly drunk bride explaining the “Seven steps” with mental clarity)…
It felt as though Dodge was playing to a much larger space as her overt physicality was at times too much for such an intimate room. While at times Dodge lacked vulnerability as Sophie, she was expressive, clean and committed to her performance. 
A coffin painted with Collingwood stripes greets us after interval. Here begins See You at the Wake, where we are attending the farewell of “Humble Dave”, a homeless man. The ensuing action involves speeches and conversations from loved and unloved ones. Special mention goes to the sales pitches of the irritatingly cheery staff of “Smiling Orchid Funerals”.
Both Dodge and Letitia Sutherland performed in See You At the Wake, the second play in this double bill. Sutherland was a great chameleon with her truthful and expressive characterisations. Her main character was playful and cheeky both physically and vocally – a face I felt I recognised from the streets of Melbourne.
See You at the Wake explores homelessness, and although I enjoyed the ladies of the street sizing up the funeral audience for their next trick and having a good old brawl, on the other side of the coin there was not an equally weighted truthful representation of the homeless. We saw a lot of the comedic slappers and too few real homeless characters and their stories. As a result I felt the piece lacked true empathy to it’s topic.
Both pieces were entertaining but have yet to reach their full potential. This double bill runs till the 9th of October thanks to Black Duck Collective and is part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.  Tickets are from $18-$23 www.melbournefringe.com.au

Emily Paddon-Brown

Emily trained at NASDA prior to gaining a Bachelor of Arts in Music Theatre from WAAPA. After graduating she debuted in Guys & Dolls where she had the blessing to understudy the role of Sarah Brown played by Lisa McCune. Emily then travelled to Korea with Jekyll & Hyde understudying the lead role Emma and Lady Beaconsfield. On screen Emily has been a lead in the feature films Only the Young Die Good and The Last of the Living. She has also acted in many short and corporate films including The Melbourne Appreciation Society. Emily has also worked as a producer, director, choreographer, teacher, stage manager and dance captain. For more info visit www.emilypaddonbrown.com

Emily Paddon-Brown

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