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Optomen reconstructs a Jane Austen ball for BBC Two

Optomen reconstructs a Jane Austen ball for BBC Two
Pippa Considine
17 January 2013

This Easter Optomen will recreate a Regency era ball for BBC Two in Pride And Prejudice: Having A Ball (working title) in honour of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s popular novel.

Presenter Amanda Vickery (The Many Lovers Of Jane Austen) will be joined by Alastair Sooke (Modern Masters) and a team of experts who reconstruct the ball in detail, from music and dancing, to food and fashion.

Across 90 minutes, the production will show the planning and rehearsal of a typical early 19th century ball, look back at first-hand testimony of ball-goers of the time and end with an authentic recreation based on Austen's Netherfield Ball, a turning point in the romance between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy.

Pride And Prejudice: Having A Ball will take a look at the social history of Austen’s world and explore how, as well as drinking, dancing and jollity, balls had an important purpose - to help women find a husband. Playing an important role in Austen’s novels, the pomp and excitement of a lively ball would drive forward the plot, explore and reveal character and shine a light on the society of the day.

Mark Bell, commissioning editor for Arts, said: “With the enduring popularity of the novel and its many television and film adaptations, this special programme for BBC Two offers a fresh perspective, exploring with depth and detail of one Regency Britain’s most crucial functions."

The commissioning executive producer for the BBC is Greg Sanderson, and the executive producers for Optomen are Jon Swain and Sue Murphy.It will be filmed on location at Chawton House, Hampshire.

BBC Learning has contributed to the funding of the project and has commissioned a range of additional supporting material, including Regency recipes devised by Ivan Day for the BBC Food website. There will also be a curated Regency art feature for the Your Paintings website, period fashion and dance resources for the BBC History site and additional materials by the presenters for adult reading groups.

The team of experts includes food historian Ivan Day, Professor Jeanice Brooks and Dr Wiebke Thormahlen, who will advise on the music and orchestral elements and curator and expert on history of dress, Hilary Davidson. Stuart Marsden and Dr Anne Daye will choreograph the dancing and literary expert John Mullan, professor of English at University College London, will be on hand to ensure the ball’s accuracy and authenticity to Austen’s work.

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