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Talking Portraits

The portraits of celebrated 18th Century actresses Mary Robinson, Kitty Clive and Elizabeth Hartley hang on the walls of Chawton House. They have posed for centuries, patiently keeping their lives to themselves: stories of the stage silenced and histories of the heart hushed. But fed up with simply decorating the walls and missing the thrill of the starring role, these 18th Century celebrities decided it was time to spill the beans. With drama on stage and off, they had a tale or two that was not to be missed…
Chawton House, once the home of Jane Austen’s brother and now home of early English women’s writing, commissioned three performances that allowed audiences to meet actresses of the 18th century. ShadyJane created an interactive, site specific performance using the lives of these three women and the beautiful rooms of Chawton House.

In stunning exact replica costumes, recreated by Jane Varrall and team, ShadyJane were the actresses playing actresses, discovering what life was like for women on the stage in the 18th Century.

To view more images of this event, visit our Talking Portraits Album on facebook.

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Photos courtesy of Chawton House - Costume drawings, design and creation by Jane Varrall