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Solo actress shares why audiences love to hate Lady Susan and why Leakey’s always gets a visit

Solo actor and writer Rebecca Vaughan is excited to return to Inverness with a new hilarious show and also to browse Leakey's bookshop.

Rebecca Vaughan as Lady Susan in the solo production coming to Eden Court in Inverness.
Rebecca Vaughan plays several characters from Austen's Lady Susan. Image: Dyad Productions

Actor Rebecca Vaughan is not struggling for copies of Jane Austen’s works.

From reading Emma as a teenager at school to touring with several shows on Austen’s characters, she has devoured the novelist’s books.

Despite her large collection, Rebecca confessed she already has her eye on a new penguin copy of Lady Susan – probably inspired by her newest show Austen’s Women: Lady Susan coming to Inverness this week.

Having visited Eden Court over 10 times now, Rebecca said they always love working with the team and are excited to be back.

While touring is busy, she admitted they always try to arrive in Inverness the afternoon before any show to stroll down the river and unsurprisingly, visit many people’s bookshop favourite, Leakey’s.

Leakey's Bookshop
Rebecca said she always likes to visit Leakey’s in Inverness. Image: Sandy McCook / DC Thomson

First show came from a Jane Austen rant

Rebecca’s newest show is based on Jane Austen’s unpublished Lady Susan from around 1794 which is created entirely from letters.

Under the direction of Andrew Margerison, the writer and actor takes on the role of several personna’s including the infamous and fairly slippery Lady Susan.

Rebecca admitted it was her time as Bottom in A Midsummer’s Night Dream when she was seven years old that introduced her to acting.

Later going into drama school, she worked her way onto bigger and bigger stages.

It was then she realised she wanted a change.

Rebecca Vaughan in A Room of One's Own
Rebecca has carried out many solo productions including A Room of One’s Own based on an extended essay from Virginia Woolf. Images: Dyad Productions

She said: “My agent was wanting it, everyone else was going ‘Yeah, you’re doing well’ but I really wanted to change the way I was doing things and found that working with smaller companies made me happier.”

In 2007, through conversations with award-winning producer and writer Guy Masterson after a show, Rebecca started to learn more about producing.

One day, after “waxing lyrical” about Austen’s work to Guy, he told her she should write a show on it.

“That’s where it started,” she said.

“There are so many film and stage adaptations that didn’t keep the authorial and wonderful, witty voice she has.

“And I was thinking there’s so much else there. So I used that as an excuse to read all the works again, including her unfinished work.”

Rebecca in Austen's Women.
Rebecca in Austen’s Women.

Austen’s Women: Lady Susan is different every night

Rebecca’s first production Austen’s Women includes 14 characters – the famous and the lesser-known ones – and enjoyed a sell-out season at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Since then she has starred in and written many solo productions, toured abroad in New Zealand, America and Australia and was invited to do the piece I, Elizabeth at the National Portrait Gallery.

However, she made herself a promise 15 years ago to come back to doing something on Lady Susan.

I Elizabeth
Rebecca said being invited to perform I, Elizabeth at the National Portrait Gallery was a highlight.

While Rebecca described being a solo actor as “the most terrifying thing you can do” she said there is nothing like it.

Getting to break the fourth wall and really take in the audience’s reactions, she said the atmosphere changes every night with Lady Susan.

“That’s what I find so addictive,” she said.

“But certainly the most challenging thing is the fact that you really have to do justice to a piece on your own.

“The audience reactions have been really fabulous because it’s such an unknown Austen.

“It’s been a real joy to perform.”

Love and hate and never knowing what is going on behind-the-scenes

While Lady Susan herself is a bit of an “anti-heroine”, Rebecca said she is also a woman who has lost everything and is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Which, she adds, Lady Susan pushes to the fullest.

“And you can feel the audiences really move between really loving her and hating her and I think that’s fascinating,” Rebecca added.

“With social media, everyone has something to say…people will have their own opinions of other people. But you never quite know what’s going on in that person’s life.

Rebecca Vaughan as Lady Susan.
Austen’s Women: Lady Susan arrives in Eden Court on Sunday, April 14.

“And I think what’s really interesting about Lady Susan.

“You judge them very quickly at the beginning and then you realise there’s so much depth and complexity. By the end of it, there’s a real unsurety because you can’t quite pin someone down and I think that’s very relevant.

“Considering Austen wrote it when she was really young, it is astonishing. Her humour and her observations of society are just fascinating.

“It’s the funniest piece I’ve done for a while.”

Something for everyone

Laughter aside, Rebecca said she believes the piece allows people to look at Austen in a fresh way and highlights the author’s reflections on society in general. Some of which are darker than most people expect.

But whether you are a fan or not, the actor said there is something for everyone: “It doesn’t matter if you know the story or not and whether they know Austen or not.

“We’ve had lots of partners being dragged and absolutely loving it.”

Rebecca is performing Austen’s Women: Lady Susan at Eden Court in Inverness on Sunday, April 14.