In Laura Wade’s bold and playful adaptation of Austen’s unfinished novel, the mutinous characters threaten to take control of the drama
I would seriously urge anyone planning to attend Laura Wade’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, The Watsons, to stop reading now since one of the play’s many pleasures is its capacity to endlessly take us by surprise. We go in expecting a literary exercise and come out having seen a philosophical comedy.
Wade plays fair in briskly dramatising the events of Austen’s fragment. Emma Watson, after being stylishly reared by a Shropshire aunt, returns after 14 years to the genteel poverty of the Surrey family home. Marriage, for Emma and her sisters, seems a matter of economic necessity and various candidates present themselves at a local ball. One, Tom Musgrave, is a conceited flirt; another, Lord Osborne, is a diffident aristo; a third, Mr Howard, is a sententious clergyman. Who will Emma choose in order to escape from her own discordant family?
The Watsons review – Austen heroine brought stunningly back to life