Interview: Laura Wade – ‘I like writing tribes’
Even if you’re up to speed with the twist in Laura Wade’s ‘The Watsons’ – and carry on reading for maybe five more seconds and you will be – there is something totally irresistible about the moment when an awkward-looking maid suddenly blurts out the words ‘these are not the droids you’re looking for’ and limply waves a hand at Grace Molony’s baffled Jane Austen heroine Emma Watson.
Austen never finished ‘The Watsons’, the story of a penniless but witty young woman abruptly left to fend for herself in the bearpit of Surrey society. After three chapters, an enticing selection of suitors are on the horizon – an awkward lord, a decent clergyman, a caddish cad – but for whatever reason Austen simply gave up on the story and left it abandoned.
Now, 200 years later, a playwright named Laura (Louise Ford) suddenly strides into ‘The Watsons’ disguised as a maid, determined to finish it.
From relatively straitlaced beginnings, Wade’s play becomes an increasingly out there meta satire, in which a writer’s blocked Laura and a series of extremely pissed-off Austen characters become bogged down in a sort of Mexican standoff over each other’s futures. It’s about the nature of authorship and authorial responsibility; it follows Wade’s last play ‘Home I’m Darling’ in taking a very long, very pointed look at our habit of fetishising regressive past societies; it’s also, at least for one very pointed scene, about Brexit, and the tyranny of democ