Pride & Prejudice was Salt House Theatre Company’s second major production. It debuted at the Art House Wyong on November 4th 2016. Attended by Jane Austen Literacy Foundation CEO and Founder Caroline Jane Knight, the 2 night run was a great success.
“Congratulations to the cast and crew of Salt House, for a fantastic performance of Pride & Prejudice. I’m sure Jane would have laughed as much as I did, hilarious!” ~ Caroline Jane Knight
“Congratulate the astonishing talent of the actor in the role of Lizzie Bennett – she was a delight, inhabiting the stage to precisely the correct degree” ~ Meredith Brice
“My daughter said it’s the best play she has seen. This is rated above the Sydney production of Wicked. High praise indeed.” ~ Noel Fisher
“What a fantastic performance. Best Mr Collins ever. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth were brilliant.” ~ Aline Kirkby
“Thank you for two amazing night’s of your production of Pride and Prejudice! Thoroughly enjoyed every minute! What a talented cast.” ~ Jeny Breed
Artistic Director Daniel Widdowson chats with Caroline Jane Knight, here’s how it unfolded.
Daniel ~ What do you love most about Pride & Prejudice?
Caroline ~ As a child growing up in Chawton, where Jane lived, wrote and published her most famous works, I have known about Mr Darcy for as long as I can remember as he was the character the tourists most wanted to talk about and imagine walking through the Great Hall of Chawton House, so I will always feel a particular connection to Pride & Prejudice. 200 years after he was introduced to the world, Mr Darcy is considered to be one of the best drawn and most enduring romantic heroes of all time and yet Jane gives us only the briefest description: ‘Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien’. It is the reader who imagines Mr Darcy’s face, hair, eyes and clothes. Jane doesn’t ask us to picture her idea of a perfect man, but to imagine our own – a perfect example of Jane’s writing talent.
Daniel ~ Is there a character that you particularly relate to?
Caroline ~ I first read Pride & Prejudice in my teens in my bedroom at Chawton House. The Knight family had owned the house for 15 generations, the Austen Knight branch for the last five generations. It was inevitable that when my grandfather died four centuries of history would come to an end. The extensive estate lands and property that Jane’s brother Edward Austen (my fourth great grandfather) inherited from his Knight cousins, had been sold off over time and only Chawton House remained – in poor condition. I had the privilege of growing up in 400 years of my own family heritage – I didn’t know anything else – and I was concerned about the future of our family. Although subject to ridicule and hilariously written, Mrs Bennet was the character I understood the most and could empathise with – ‘what is to become of us all’!
Daniel ~ You didn’t open up about being related to Jane Austen until very recently, why?
Caroline ~ I was 17 when my grandfather, Edward Knight III, died, leaving a depleted estate in desperate need or restoration. It was impossible to keep Chawton as our family home and 400 years of family history closed. I was deeply saddened to leave Chawton and chose not to publicise my connections. I wanted to be independent and succeed on my own merits. I started a career in business in my early thirties and relocated to Australia in 2008 to become the CEO of a large marketing company. In 2010 I joined the board of the charity Life Education and in 2012 I joined the board of the Australian Institute of Management. That same year I was a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Awards. In 2013, after 20 years of silence, I went to the 200 year anniversary celebrations of Pride & Prejudice in Melbourne and was overwhelmed by the interest in my lifelong family relationship with great Aunt Jane. I realised I had a unique opportunity to use my connections to harness the worldwide passion for Jane Austen and raise money for literacy.
Daniel ~ What does the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation do?
Caroline ~ Jane Austen Literacy Foundation works with the Jane Austen community and industry raise money to buy reading and writing materials for communities in need across the world. Jane Austen Literacy Foundation is a global volunteer organisation with no wages or commissions paid to anyone. We fund basic materials like colouring pencils, pens, paper and children’s books to support literacy programs delivered by reputable charitable organisations such as UNICEF and The Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation
Daniel ~ How does it serve the disadvantaged in Australia?
Caroline ~ Reading and writing empowers individuals to participate in society and achieve their dreams. Australian Indigenous children in remote locations are being significantly disadvantaged by a gap between non-indigenous and indigenous literacy rates in Australia. Only one in five remote indigenous children are achieving at or above the minimum standard for reading in Year 3 and at least 64% have no access to a library. Jane Austen Literacy Foundation fund books for remote indigenous community schools and libraries.
Daniel ~ Why are you partnering with the Salt House Theatre Company?
Caroline ~ It is amazing to see something that I grew up with in the relative privacy of our family home, written by my fifth great Aunt, being loved and performed on the other side of the world – I am fascinated to see P&P adapted by an Australian theatre company. All Jane’s work is out of copyright and free to use – no royalties are paid to her estate. I am delighted that the Salt House Theatre Company will use the opportunity to raise funds to buy literacy resources for indigenous children in remote communities here in Australia, in honour of Jane, and I am looking forward to attending the show.