Jane Austen Is Dead

Good Luck Bar (basement, 126 Cuba Mall), Wellington

24/02/2008 - 29/02/2008

BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

09/07/2013 - 13/07/2013

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

Cinderella did it. Elizabeth Bennet did it. Love must be just around the corner… right? But will we recognize it across the bar after too many wines?

A sharp guide to love, dating and relationships in 2008. Funny, naughty and honest.

Good Luck Bar, 126 Cuba Street
February 24, 25, 26. 27, 28, 29
7 pm
Duration 1 hr  

2013 season:

What do you do when your ideal man is Mr Darcy and the only man at the pub seems to be Mr Wickham? …or even worse, Mr Collins? In a world of Find-Someone, Facebook and drunken sex in disabled toilets, is it possible to meet a man on a white horse in well – tailored regency attire?

A little bit naughty and lots of fun, Jane Austen is Dead is a treat for the contemporary heroine (with enough laughs to entertain the modern day hero). The BATS bar, Understudy will also have themed cocktails to get the party started!

Direct from a sell-out, 4 star season at The Adelaide Fringe Jane Austen is Dead will play a five night season at BATS Out of Site. The play had a development season in Wellington in 2008, but has since been further reworked with outings in Adelaide and Melbourne. A Sydney season is booked for September 2013.

This is romantic-optimist Mel Dodge’s sixth play for her company BRAVE. As writer and performer, she is excited about collaborating with long-time friend and romantic-philanderer director, Patrick Davies. Lighting design by newly-married Sherilee Kahui and set design is based on the original by engaged Bonnie Parker. Other BRAVE plays have toured to Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Edinburgh.

‘Dodge gives a brilliant performance. An entertaining satire that has the wit, poise, and sentiment of an Austen novel.’ 4 stars. Fringe Review UK 

‘Dodge is a consummate and versatile actor with loads of energy.’ The Dominion Post

 ‘Lots of gleeful giggles of recognition.’ 4 stars. Kryzoff Adelaide Fringe

Jane Austen is Dead 
BATS Out of site
Level 1, 80 Cuba St, Wellington
9th-13th July 6.30pm
Groups 6+ $16
book@bats.co.nz for tickets

Mel plays:
Sophie, our heroine at various ages
Richard, her brother
Mary, a young barmaid
Theresa, a vixen with a plan
Reuben, A visitor to our shores
Tony, Steven, Roger, Shane, Fergus Todd, and Gary
Helen, a Bride
Felicity, a Girl with a solution
& The Heart Scrubber........?

Operation by Gene Alexander (2008) / Sherilee Kahui (2013)

1 hr, no interval

Obsessions that can bedevil us #2

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 11th Jul 2013

From their titles [Jane Austen is Dead and The Legend of Hector] would appear to be very different. In fact they have a lot in common. Both are wry comedies and though they have contemporary settings (a bijoux bar for Austen and a student flat for Hector) they deal with the influence of the past on the present.

They also reveal the obsessions that can bedevil the human mind and the quest for a more stimulating world in which to live. In Austen’s case it’s, not surprisingly, marriage.

Sophie (Mel Dodge) runs a posh bar which includes shelves for the Austen novels. She sees herself as Elizabeth Bennett in search of Mr Darcy but she goes looking in all the wrong places such as a dating website where she comes across a cross-section of the modern male. All seem to be Mr Wickham and none comes anywhere near a Mr Darcy.

She talks to her always-late-for-work barmaid, a drunken friend who is about to get married and to her best friend who is happily married and pregnant. She takes us briefly into amusing cameos of the problems faced by the novels’ heroines and the men they had to cope with.

Mel Dodge gives a lovely performance, quickly establishing all the characters with vitality and an accuracy of characterisation that is a joy to watch. Though we know Mr Darcy will never materialise, the ending is still a satisfying and happy one.


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Piercing accuracy and finesse

Review by John Smythe 10th Jul 2013

When I reviewed my ‘first date’ with Jane Austen is Dead (a ‘development season’ in the 2008 Fringe), I declared it was “definitely one I’d like to meet up with again.” I’ve waited five years and at last she’s come through, after ‘playing around’ to gain some maturity in Palmerston North, Melbourne, Western Australia and Adelaide – and apparently Sydney is on a promise later this year.

Of course being a man in the real world, nothing I can say or do will find sufficient favour. Who can match the mythical charms of Jane Austen’s romantic heroes? We men are as doomed to suffer failure to please as women are never to find such a match. Jane Austen has messed with all our heads.

Nevertheless I shall stick my neck out and affirm this piece has come a long way. There is a relaxed clarity that leaves me in no doubt as to who is who, what they’re up to and why. And the upshot – as written, performed and produced by Mel Dodge – is most entertaining.

Sophie, the seeker, runs a boutique bar that specialises in cocktails named for Austen characters. Her ex-boyfriend, Simon, is getting married to Helen, who surely will not be so insensitive as to have her hen party here …

Weddings, Sophie (33) tells us, are always riddled with Austenesque types but where is her Mr Darcy, Mr Knightley, Captain Wentworth …? She’s been looking since her first playground encounter with the boy with the Spider Man lunchbox.

Meanwhile her employee, Mary, has had a date with Sophie’s cousin Richard and is trying to resist the temptation to text-bomb him. And her happily partnered-up best friend Victoria is suddenly on soft drinks. But sex-addicted man-hater Theresa is still on the self-loathing rampage.

We share Sophie’s video-dating site encounters with Tony, Steven, Roger, Shane, Fergus, Todd, and Gary – and glimpse some of the dates they suffered. And yes, the hen’s party does descend, wherein the pissed bride-to-be regales Sophie with ‘The Seven Stages of Desperation’. You have to be there …

Dodge does them all with a piercing accuracy and a finesse that encapsulates her lifelong quest in 50 very entertaining minutes. And her revelation at the end is most enlightening, topped as it is with her (Sophie’s?) father’s favourite Jane Austen quote concerning happiness (from Sense and Sensibility).

A most pleasurable second date.

A footling footnote:

When I got home I did an online test on behalf of Sophie, as I’d perceived her, to see which Austen hero best suited her. Henry Crawford (the ‘bad boy’ from Mansfield Park) came out on top with 84% while Col. Brandon (the ‘father figure’ from Sense and Sensibility) scored 58%.

From Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy (‘the aloof prince’) scored 50%, just ahead of Mr Collins (‘the prick’) at 48% and well ahead of Mr Bingley (‘the boy next door’) on 15%. Mr Knightley (‘the best friend’ from Emma) scored 41% while Captain Wentworth (‘the soldier boy’ from her swansong, Persuasion) made 38%.


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Fewer characters would be more satisfying

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Mar 2008

The Good Luck Bar, not an ideal performance venue – cramped and hot with distracting bar noses in the background – is adequate for Mel Dodge’s cleverly written but ultimately unsatisfying Jane Austen Is Dead

First love and looking for Mr Right are the recurring themes played out by a myriad of characters in various guises.  Central to them all is Sophie, a bar manager, who interacts with both staff and customers. She is an independent woman who knows her own mind, unlike the women of Jane Austen’s novels who look to marriage for social standing and economic security – hence the little of the piece. 

While challenging an audience and making them ask questions is the essence of good theatre, it is asking a lot for them to follow coherently the interactions of over a dozen thinly sketched characters played by the same actor.  Fewer characters better developed and fleshed out would have given the piece more depth and consequently have been more satisfying. 

Nevertheless Dodge is a consummate and versatile actor with loads of energy who slips easily from character to character even though many were similar in mannerism and vocal intonation. 


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In quest of a gem

Review by John Smythe 27th Feb 2008

In this ‘first date’ tryout season, Mel Dodge’s solo show Jane Austen is Dead is definitely one I’d like to meet up with again.

Evicted from the suddenly closed-down Buena Vista Social Club, the show makes do with the Good Luck Bar basement, played against the back-lit bottle-shelved end of a still-functioning bar.  From where we sit the entranced face of a barmaid in a large wall mirror adds a ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the mix, while the ice-crunching shovelling and cocktail-shaking of an insensitive barman intrudes on some delicate moments.

The main location is a bar: the point of departure for a series of elegant long-gloved Austen-esque discoveries of the multitudinous love stories to be found around town; secretive arrivals home;  blind dates in restaurants and moments of truth where car were parked … These recurring sequences in search of Mr Right – and, in the case of the repeated arrival home, of his real intentions – are the multi-facetted gem in a yet-to-be fully-formed setting.

Mel Dodge variously peoples the bar with Mary, a ‘rooly dutzy’ barmaid who ‘rooly thunks’ she’s just found ‘the one’; Sophie, her senior, whose litany of dates from school days to recently via various matching mechanisms becomes a sophisticated running joke; Richard, who the programme tells me is her brother and whose role in the story evades me; and a random selection of suave and/or desperate customers.  

I can’t say I got the hang of it all, although in a proper theatre venue more subtlety and nuance may well come to light. Otherwise I suspect some parts need polishing, others need to be reworked or cut away …

To re-jig the metaphor somewhat, much molten material swirls in the cauldron of Dodge’s creativity and I have little doubt she will separate the dross from the gold eventually to fashion a work of total delight.

Meanwhile it is already a pleasure to watch a performer of such skill ply her craft in quest of another theatrical treasure. I do hope she’ll call for another date.


Paul McLaughlin February 28th, 2008

"…although in a proper theatre venue more subtlety and nuance may well come to light." Even in our established venues any nuance or subtlety is devilishly hard to create and/or sustain for the audience due to appalling acoustics – boy-racers, fire engines, creaky rostra, cellphones, ignorant patrons trying to unwrap sweets ‘quietly’… I think actors have had to embrace this total lack of a/ focus and b/ respect. As a result of this and the lack of venues in our city, wonderful actors and actresses such as Mel create works outside of the traditional ‘venue’. To me, ambient sound therefore becomes an integral part of a performance. This needn’t be a bad thing. I hope audiences will come to realize this and accept it, as theatre-practitioners are doing.

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