Sanditon was Jane Austen’s last, partially completed, novel of around 24,000 words, written between January 27th 1817 and March 18th 1817. Jane’s niece Anna, the daughter of Jane’s eldest brother James, had been brought up in her youngest years at Steventon with the 18 year older Jane, remained at Steventon with her father until she married Ben Lefroy at 21, and after a brief interlude moved back to Hampshire to live two miles away from Jane then living at Chawton.
Anna was surely the first ‘Janeite’ and harboured a life-long ambition to emulate and honour her aunt. In March 1845 she inherited Jane’s manuscript in the will of Jane’s sister Cassandra and set about writing her Completion, of similar length, and similarly unfinished.
In 2013 Chris Brindle, fascinated by the story behind the miniature of Anna Lefroy painted by his great great great grandfather acquired the original Lefroy Sanditon manuscripts from the USA and set about writing a stageplay based on the two fragments, with an ending that appeared a logical extension of the plot development in the Lefroy Continuation.
On 27th June 2014 the play was performed as a blocked script-in-hand performance at The Headgate Theatre Colchester, filmed by four cameras
On 28th Nov 2014 an edited 2 hour recording of the Headgate Theatre performance was released on DVD. This includes the 10 minute short film shot on location at Glemham Hall, Suffolk, and the duet “Blue Briny Sea” shot on location at Chawton House Library.
Also released on 28th Nov was a 40 min Documentary shot at Chawton Cottage, Chawton House Library, Steventon, Selborne, Wyards Farmhouse Alton, Oakley Hall, Knowl Hill and Bray that tells of the writing of Sanditon by Austen, Lefory and Chris Brindle, and the writing of the first biography of Jane Austen by her nephew, James Edward Austen Leigh. The Documentary has music by American composer Amanda Jacobs performed on the histroric pianos at Chawton Cottage and Chawton House Library.
The 2 DVD set of the Documentary and the Film-of-the-Play of Sanditon representing Chris’s solution to how the novel should end remains available on Amazon.
Having written the lyrics to “Blue Briny Sea” Chris kept on writing. The musical “Auditions” arrived in 2015 re-written as “Guardian Angels” in 2016, containing the novely YouTube hit “Holiday In Harwich”. 2017 saw an even bigger YouTube hit in “Felixstowe” and the commencement of writing of a Latin Dance Musical, “La Vida Loca”.
More seriously, 2017 was the 200th Anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, and Chris wrote “Song For Jane Austen” to mark the occasion and celebrate the legacy Jane left in her dying months to try and secure her literary reputation in the future. How well she succeeded is evidenced every year by the Regency Parade in Bath, and the 2017 parade provided the images for a further video.
What comes into our minds when in 2019 when we read Jane Austen’s books ? Or more particularly supposing we were a paramedic, and a singer / songwriter in a girl band? Chris imagined a new character he called ANNA, putting herself in the shoes of Charlotte Heywood in 1817. What would she make of her parents agreeing that she should spend a summer at ‘Sanditon’ in the company of eccentric property developer Tom Parker and his wife ? Should she leave her existing security for the excitement of a possible new life? This idea, echoing the Beatles’ “She’s leaving Home” became the first new song, quickly followed by “Shallow”, Charlotte’s opinion of Sir Edward Denham.
Going through the 2014 play script, retaining the very best of the dialogue, but turning the rest into songs which explored the characters and situations in greater depth, the big-stage ensemble musical “200 Years Later” – Jane Austen’s ‘Sanditon’ as a pop/rock musical, gradually emerged.
Of course a new musical goes through many stages of development. First outing for “200 Years Later” will be a six person actor/musician concert presentaton of all seventeen songs with narrated links between them detailing the plot and the history of the piece. This will be in the Studio of “The Other Palace” Theatre in Victoria on Friday 26th July at 8pm.