Imagine the scene. You receive an invitation saying “The Hon. Newton Fellowes MP has the pleasure of inviting you to a Gala Dinner on Saturday 9 July 1816 at Whitchurch Silk Mill in aid of local good causes and the poor of the borough. Our guests of honour will be the Earl and Countess of Portsmouth of Hurstbourne Park and local authoress Miss Jane Austen.” You know that the peer in question is known locally as the Vampyre Earl, for his disturbing interest in death and decay and his unfortunate habit of biting the servants. Then you notice the following words, written in a shaky hand, which appear at the bottom of the invitation: “Terrible things will happen.” Odd, perhaps, but this is exactly the invitation that guests for Whitchurch Silk Mill’s latest fundraising venture will be receiving.
Jane Austen and the Vampyre Earl sounds a pretty implausible combination, too delicious a coming together to be true, perhaps. But in fact, The Third Earl of Portsmouth, who lived in Hurstbourne Park on the edge of Whitchurch in Hampshire, was known locally as the Vampyre Earl, and not only was he acquainted with Jane but he was taught by her father, The Reverend George Austen, vicar of nearby Steventon.
And now, Whitchurch resident and member of the town’s community theatre company WADS, Sue Washington, has written a murder mystery in aid of the town’s Silk Mill that brings Jane and the Earl together in a fantasy murder mystery that, as the poster says, “is more plausible than you might think.”
Jane Austen and the Vampyre Earl is set in 1816 and is in aid of Whitchurch Silk Mill’s Preserving the Fabric Bicentenary Appeal. The entertainment is being staged by Whitchurch’s own community theatre, WADS, and the evening starts with a drinks reception at the Mill followed by dinner at the Gill Nethercott Centre with the murder mystery unfolding throughout the evening. This is a once-only event and is sure to sell out quickly. It takes place on Saturday 9 July at 7pm and tickets cost £40 to include a drink on arrival, three-course meal, entry into a raffle to win a bottle of champagne, and the chance to solve the murder mystery. Guests are encouraged to “come in 1816 costume if you dare,” but 21st century evening dress is also permissible. For costume ideas follow this link and for costume hire follow this one.
While the events that take place in the murder mystery are fictional, the characters are based on real local residents who knew each other.
Tickets to Jane Austen and the Vampyre Earl are available online by clicking here (a booking fee of £2.85 per ticket will be added) or, if you don't want to pay the fee, by email to email@example.com, at the Whitchurch Silk Mill shop, or by telephone on 01256 892514.
Why not join WADS?We are always on the lookout for people to get involved - actors, directors, sound and lighting people, make-up people, set builders, wardrobe, front-of-house, etc. etc. All are welcome. Our club night is every Tuesday at Whitchurch Parish Hall from 8pm. Just turn up, contact WADS at firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 01256 89251. You can also follow WADS on Facebook and Twitter (@WADSweb).
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The photograph above of the cast of Julius Caesar appears by kind permission of Andy Stott, whose work can be viewed on his website, imageri.com