The Discovery Centre in Winchester is a fairly small and intimate venue featuring a performance space right in the middle of the audience, rather than a traditional stage. This set-up is fully utilised by 2 Time Theatre with its current production of Meeting Miss Austen.
The set is dressed as a period drawing room which sees furniture and props moved around inventively to tell three short stories; two monologues and three songs.
Everything looks good including costumes which are finely detailed; scarves, hats and coats - easily swapped and removed to define various characters. Accents are also used to great effect and not at all distracting. If I closed my eyes and listened the story was still clear.
Acting is convincing with the whole cast bringing different characters to life with their performances. The three male actors are playing minor characters and can be described as supporting players, but it doesn't detract from their collective contribution.
Peter McCrohon plays the father figure and is also involved in the songs. Avuncular and engaging, he helps move the evening along. David Parker, as the attractive and sometimes brooding male whom draws the ladies, is effective, although in limited roles. James Doherty, with slightly more opportunities at one point plays an impressionable young bonnet-wearing woman.
The female cast, with larger roles, enjoy the more memorable characters. Jilly Bond is able to bring alive several people of various social strata and has such a 'familiar' sounding voice that she really brings you into whichever take is in-play. Maggie Tarver delivers all of her characters well with 'Lady Greville' being quite superb; a biting nasty streak and incredibly dismissive of anyone of lower social standing, however, surprise later upends her. Joanna Russell prays a youthful innocence and a brash girl power through her various characters.
The stand-out performance for me is Olivia S.J. Noyce with my eye being constantly drawn to her whether as a principal or just part of the background. Her extremely expressive persona help her characters' emotional experiences see themselves laid bare for all to see, wonderfully telling the story from their respective points of view.
Overall this is an thoroughly entertaining production, well directed by Philip Glassborow, with musical and movement directors Louise Jordan and Dan O'Neil respectively, and produced by Rachel O'Neil. Based on the Juvenilia and other notes from Jane Austen and with music of the period played onstage by Louise Jordan through a cleverly disguised modern keyboard.
This is a 2 Time Theatre production I can happily recommend.