“…she had the unexpected happiness of an invitation to accompany her uncle and aunt in a tour of pleasure which they proposed taking in the summer.
“We have not determined how far it shall carry us,” said Mrs. Gardiner, “but, perhaps, to the Lakes.”
No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. “Oh, my dear, dear aunt,” she rapturously cried, “what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of anything. We will know where we have gone – we will recollect what we have seen.“ PRIDE & PREJUDICE
We must confess that travelling was every bit as exciting as Elizabeth Bennet suspected – for we have just returned from a wonderful touring jaunt all around England and can report that rocks and mountains do undeniably put the young men to shame!
From the quaint winding alleys of Frome and Shrewsbury, and the magical cathedrals of Wells and Lincoln, to the charming pier at Southport and the crags above Kendal (for we were indeed carried as far as the Lakes), we could not have had a more diverse and hospitable set of stops had they been imagined up by Jane herself!
Which is quite an achievement, given the breadth of Jane’s imagination evident in the ‘lost’ works we unearthed along the way.
In Lincoln we brought to light a sporting opus, ‘Mansfield Town Ladies FC’, replete with meddling oligarchs and goals galore, whilst Peterborough’s offering opened with the rare occurrence of an amputated leg thrown clean through the parlour window. It turned out to belong to a dastardly admiral, of course.
Twice Jane showed remarkable foresight (or, if you will forgive us, ‘force-sight’) in incorporating elements of a Galaxy Far Far Away, with Wells and Lancaster playing host to first a heroic, and then a decidedly villainous Lord Vader (or Darthy, in the former case), whilst the memory of the marauding wildebeest in Banbury still chills us to the bone.
‘A very strange stranger it must be who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme to make him wish to know it better’, wrote Jane in Persuasion, but she can hardly have imagined that ‘knowing it better’ would mean popping into the delightful Marine Theatre for a never before seen Regency amusement charting Lord Zayn’s departure from ‘No Direction’ (evading a devious but still perplexingly-present Gollum in the woods along the way).
And what a time we had in Lyme, bashing at chunks of rock shed by the Jurassic cliffs in search of fossils, and posing for windswept portraits on the Cobb, the salty air and the shriek of the seabirds overwhelming the senses just as they would have done for Anne Elliot and her steadfast Captain Wentworth.
Similarly diverting was Wells’ ancient ‘Chain Library’ – its crumbling volumes literally tethered to the shelves. There was, alas, no Jane Austen to be found there (it turns out monks and bishops were slow to cotton on to her considerable charms), but treasures as varied as a catalogue of unhappy fates that befell missionaries (sharpened sticks galore) and a centuries old naval pop-up book were plucked out for our delectation. Our convivial hosts also gifted us a frightening-looking tromboncino, which Miss Amy most innovatively made use of.
All in all we visited twenty wonderful towns, from the sprawling to the petite, and made too many gracious new friends to mention. We can’t wait to pack up our smocks and chemisettes, scramble into the Post Chaise and do it all again in 2017 – the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s passing.
“…autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness…” PERSUASION
The Austentatious Grand Tour is drawing to a close, but residents of Cranleigh, Lincoln, Bromsgrove, Lancaster, Kendal and London may still catch us before the year is out. The Times most graciously included us in their list of the ‘30 best shows to book for Christmas’ !
If you cannot join us in person, fear not. The Cast have been working tirelessly to entertain the nation, so why not feast your eyes upon their individual exploits below?
Amy Cooke-Hodgson has lent her talents to a thrilling array of projects of late, including this stellar turn for Save the Children. Off-screen, she has been baking like a goddess and designing creative delights under the sweet guise of Rowley & Cooke.
Andrew Hunter Murray is scattering fact catnip across the land in BBC Two’s No Such Thing As The News, and we are proud to report that his searing wit in both the QI and Private Eye podcasts has garnered him a prestigious award-nomination!
Cariad Lloyd has graced screens far and wide with recent appearances on QI and 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. On the wireless, she has waxed lyrical on literature and improvisation for BBC Radio’s A Good Read and The Comedy Club.
Charlotte Gittins committed flagrant crimes against the English language in this short sketch, shot at the OED. Behind-the-scenes, she has been working with another beloved acronym, the BBC, filming documentaries in Russia and Romania.
Daniel Nils Roberts’s dulcet tones may be enjoyed in these podcasts, in which he performs alongside his Racing Minds cohorts. His film-making prowess, complete with a modest, yet masterful cameo, may also be admired here.
Graham Dickson is, ironically, too funny for words in this short film heralding the Collins 2016 Word of the Year. You may also spy him in Channel 5’s Borderline and on stage at The FA’s Charity Weekender from 26th-27th November.
Joseph Morpurgo has been commissioned by BBC Radio 4 to create a comedy series: Joseph Morpurgo’s Walking Tour. He appeared with Cariad and Rachel in Murder in Successville and stunned BBC Three with lost EastEnders plots.
Rachel Parris was declared Best Musical Comedy Act by What’s On London! Enjoy her lyrical prowess in this most athletic of music videos, catch her on stage in December and eagerly await her appearance in BBC Two’s Revolting.
Our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who joined us for our Crosstentatious charity special in January. Thanks to the generosity of our audience and those who donated raffle prizes, we managed to raise £3134.46 for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund!
Thank you to our wonderful audience and to our noble raffle benefactors: Benefit UK, QI, Mischief Theatre, Faber & Faber, PBJ Management, Leicester Square Theatre and Rowley & Cooke. Thanks too to our noble technician, Jon Monkhouse, our fine musicians, Corrina Connor and Oliver Izod, and photographer Damian Robertson, for donating their time.
As for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, our admiration for them knows no bounds. Should you ever find yourself in possession of a good fortune, they are always most thankful for donations, all of which go towards a truly life-saving cause. We salute them!
“…have a cheerful, and at times even a merry, Christmas.” JANE AUSTEN, 1808
On Friday 27th November, we return to Scotland for one night only as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas 2015! Join us in the wintery warmth of the Spiegeltent on St. Andrew Square at 9.30pm for a very special evening of festive merriment.
Tickets are available in advance online or on 0844 545 8252. You may also buy them directly from the box offices on St. Andrew Square, in East Princes Street Gardens and at the magical-sounding Santa Land.
We have written a letter to St. Nicholas, asking him to deliver us only the most eligible of guests, so we await your arrival with breathless anticipation! You will find us waiting hopefully between the wassail bowl and the kissing bough…