Review: Lost in Austen

September 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

 Lost in Austen Review

Lost in Austen

ITV 1, Wednesday 3rd September, 9pm

I have a confession to make. I really, really like costume drama. Despite that my job is to cast a critical eye over all things television, I can’t help but go all girly at the mention of big dresses and silly manners.

So when the preview of ITV’s four part drama Lost in Austen came to me I was like a little kid, grabbing my DVD’s and settling in for a few hours of pure pleasure. Of course, I was also giving it the tough review it deserves.

I was so busy seeing the word ‘Austen’ I didn’t actually realise that the show begins in the modern day with our heroine Amanda Price. She is a 20 something girl with a drunken cad of a boyfriend, a boring job in a bank and a mother who keeps telling her to settle for less. Amanda is obsessed with the world of Pride and Prejudice, it is her escape from the mundanity of her boring old life until one day she opens her bathroom door and finds Elizabeth Bennett standing there. Now suffice to say that lots of goings on happen and the result is that Amanda and Elizabeth switch places, leaving Amanda stuck in the world of Austen.

At first the show grated a little bit. Firstly because I was annoyed there were no big dresses, but secondly because of the nasally theatrical voice over by Jemima Rooper. However when it moves into the Austen world, the show takes on a new life. The dialogue is a witty, warm parody of Austen’s voice but they never forget that this is a modern girl in a strange, constrained world that she doesn’t yet understand, much as she adores it. Claude Bennett is a great turn from Hugh Bonneville, whose benevolent yet scathing wit hogs some of the best lines in the show. It handles the careful dance between the Austen sensibilities and modern ones very well, often with very funny results. ‘Can I get you a dish of faggots’ politely inquires one of the Bennetts. ‘I’m alright for faggots thank you’ replies a faintly stunned Amanda.

This is a lovingly, wittily written homage to Austen which has more surprises that you might think. Oh and Rooper’s not so nasally grating in the end, but actually brings an endearing bemusement to her character that draws you in. All in all, a really enjoyable show.