Monday, 26 November 2007

Jane Austen Season in New Zealand

The new ITV productions of Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion screened here in New Zealand during July. I was so excited that we didn’t have a long frustrating wait, but rest assured, North American Jane lovers, the wait will be worth it in the end for you are in for a big treat next year with “Sunday’s with Jane”. (I love the title, and repeat it often. Sunday’s with Jane, how lovely and homey, conjuring up images of a cosy wood fire and friends)

Here are my short reviews of the new adaptations; beware, they are marginally spoilerific. :)


By some miracle I still can’t fully understand, I went into the ITV Jane Austen Season completely blind, having ignored and resisted all Internet spoilers. Yes, even the publicity stills!

Mansfield Park 2007 was a complete surprise, and sadly, not a pleasant one. Personally, I didn’t like the script, or the casting.

When I watch adaptations I don’t have any problems with minor deviations from the book, sometimes it’s part of the writer’s job as they conform to various restrictions, but I don’t like it when the spirit of the adaptation is not faithful to the original work. Sadly, ITV’s Mansfield Park didn’t work for me.


I was really looking forward to seeing a new version of Jane Austen's least adapted novel, Northanger Abbey. Andrew Davis’s interpretation was a revelation.

In a rare case of perfect timing, I had just finished re-reading the novel the day that the adaptation aired. I loved it. As a whole the interpretation was youthful and charming, and the casting was excellent. Felicity Jones was gorgeous as Catherine, with all her wondrous enthusiasm and naivety. JJ Feild was a very handsome leading man, and charming! He completely captured Henry Tilney’s natural ease and charisma. The chemistry between the pair was riveting. They shared a connection that was so strong it was almost tangible. Beautiful.

The supporting cast were well-rounded and well-cast, and the locations were fantastic. I really felt the wonder and excitement of Catherine’s journey as she experienced new worlds and relationships for the first time.

I have always enjoyed Andrew Davis’ work, and I think he did himself proud with his interpretation of Northanger Abbey. It was entertaining, and at the same time a unique combination of lightness and darkness, frivolousness and seriousness, sensuality and innocence. Most importantly it was faithful to the spirit of the original novel.

I was amused and entertained, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that was so drenched in charm. Two thumbs up; I loved it.


I was first introduced to Jane Austen at the tender age of twelve. I remember ripping through the novels at a ferocious rate, re-reading my favourites Pride and Prejudice and Emma several times before moving on what I considered (at the time) the ‘heavier stuff’. Before I reached Persuasion I hit a snag – I watched an adaptation that involved hours and hours and hours of walking. To my juvenile brain it encompassed absolutely nothing else but walking. I am embarrassed and amused to admit that it put me off reading the magnificent novel for at least a couple of years. I just couldn’t shake the walking.

I am pleased to report that while the new Persuasion does feature some frenzied spats of running (!), there was not a single dull walk in sight.

I adored this adaptation. Rupert Penry-Jones was magnificent as Captain Wentworth, and I cannot praise Sally Hawkins’ Anne Elliot enough. Their chemistry was magnetic, and their intimacy was slowly reborn from their place of torturous estrangement. It was a joy to watch. Wentworth’s bitterness melted away as he forgave, and was forced to acknowledge Anne’s sweetness and superiority of character.

The production was steeped in somberness. I felt the pain of the characters; Anne’s loneliness and regret, and Wentworth’s struggle to forgive the years of lost love.

The supporting cast were brilliant (although I didn’t enjoy Amanda Hale’s Mary Musgrove) and the locations were incredible! Lyme was gorgeous. I loved the contrast and symbolism of the rugged wildness compared to the refined gentility of everyday life.

My main gripe with this production was the placement of the famous “constancy” discussion between Anne and Captain Harville. For the life of me I cannot understand WHY the writers moved this crucial plot point to the middle of the story, and then, even better, left it unheard by Wentworth! Yes, unheard! All pretense at maturity fled during this scene and I was reduced to throwing popcorn at the screen. I couldn’t believe it!

In summary, Persuasion 2007 is a tragic, moving, and wondrous production - highly recommended to all. And if you haven’t done it already – read the book!

Pic 1: ITV Jane Austen Season from:
Pic 2: Billie Piper as Fanny Price from: manchestereveningnews
Pic 3: Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram from: bootsandbonnets
Pic 4: Northanger Abbey still from: FelicityFix
Pic 5: Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland from:
Pic 6: Persuasion collage from:
Pic 7: Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot from: manchestereveningnews
Pic 8: Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth from: bootsandbonnets

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