Jane Austen Meets Emma in WA This May

Jane Austen Meets Emma in WA This May

Ever wondered what would happen if Jane Austen became a character in one of her most iconic novels? Witness Jane meeting Emma in a reimagined stage revival during May 2024.

In its first show since 2022, ARENA Theatre Productions is bringing one of Jane Austen’s most beloved works, Emma, to life in this new production, opening at the Don Russell Performing Arts Centre on May 3.

In the play, we meet Emma Woodhouse, who is rich, charming, spoilt, single, and obsessed with matchmaking. This leads her to meddle with the love lives of those around her, including her friend Harriet Smith, the town vicar Mr Elton, a family friend Robert Martin, her best male friend, and a mysterious interloper.

This production, which has been faithfully adapted from the original novel by director Simon James, introduces a pivotal and unique character: Jane Austen herself. Jane takes the stage to shepherd her characters through plenty of twists, turns, surprises - and plenty of asides to bring the audience along on the journey with her.

Kate Naunton Morgan plays the titular role of Emma and said she was drawn to audition for the show because of Emma’s strong values, and her affinity for a classic ‘90s film.

“One of my favourite movies, ‘Clueless’, is a modern adaptation of the novel, and I saw this as my sign to audition for the role of Emma,” she said.

“Emma’s unwavering sense of independence and self-assuredness resonated deeply with my own values and aspirations. What truly captivates me about Emma is her remarkable journey of self-discovery and personal growth throughout the play - the opportunity to bring her story to life on stage is one I simply couldn’t resist!”

Simon James, who has been a driving force behind ARENA Theatre Productions for the past 30 years, said he wanted to tackle a literary classic and stretch himself in new areas.

“I read Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ in my Year 11 English Literature class, and have always felt a strong connection to it,” he said.

“In my adaptation of the novel, the character of Jane Austen not only links narratives, but she gets in there and inspires the characters into doing what she is writing about them. This adaptation is very authentic to her novel; her words speak the story and characters as best as anyone can.”

Emma plays at 7.30pm on May 3, 10 and 11, and at 2pm on May 4 and 11. Tickets priced at $25 adult, $20 concession, plus booking fee. Book at bit.ly/Emma-2024.

Images (from top): Jane Austen (Ashlee McKenna) takes charge of her characters in this fresh adaptation of the literary classic Emma; Mr Knightly (Garrison Cox) isn’t too pleased with Emma Woodhouse’s (Kate Naunton Morgan) matchmaking ways, but will their friendship survive? And Jane Austen (Ashlee McKenna) watches on as her characters Mr Churchill (James Ford) and Jane Fairfax (Poppy Lindsell) steal a moment away from the crowd.

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