London and Touring
Regent’s Park Theatre Ltd
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, adapted by Simon Reade
Richmond Theatre to 19 November. Thereafter touring to Bath Theatre Royal, High Wickham Swan, Canterbury Marlow Theatre, Newcastle Theatre Royal and Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre
Runs 2h 40 minutes with interval
Review: Tom Aitken 16 11 16
Conflict resolution, everything perforectly in place, wit and all
Examination of Jane Austen’s text suggests that the dialogue (or most of it, at any rate) comes from the book. Interestingly, it works very well. Austen’s wit and spontaneity come through very enjoyably and there is never any feeling of stiltedness.
The acting hits the spot equally. These characters may be speaking the dialect of the upper class country gentry at the end of the eighteenth century, but they sound above all like people sorting out conflicts relating to marriage, choice of partner, keeping your parents happy and so on. The huge cast keeps us focussed on a story that is sometimes presented, rather reductively, as the quintessence of gentility.
In this production the contretemps between gentility and an urgent wish to shape events as the characters would like them to go is hugely enjoyable.
The management of scene changes is simple but resourceful. A movable staircase and part of an attached upper floor, together with some splendid backdrops, give us an almost subconscious sense of different locales and contribute to the feeling that these well-spoken and beautifully dressed people are capable of emotional turbulence and manipulation.
Austen’s wit and enjoyment of humorous situations and contretemps is exploited to the full, not least in the recurring, variously accented use of the novel’s first sentence: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ At one point the sentence begins ‘So it is a truth universally acknowledged…’
Somehow, indeed, without any absurd modernisation of characters and attitudes, we are helped to grasp that formal language and manners are not necessarily stilted, and that Jane Austen’s amused enjoyment of the complications in relationships governed by a society based on formality and status is readily and enjoyably accessible to us now.
Mr Wickham: Daniel Abbott
Charlotte Lucas: Francesca Bailey
Kitty Bennet/Georgia Darcy
Lady Catherine De Bourgh: Doña Croll
Mr Darcy: Benjamin Dilloway
Jane Bennet: Hollie Edwin
Lydia Bennet: Mari Izzard
Mr Bennet: Matthew Kelley
Mr Collins: Steven Meo
Mr Bingley: Jordan Mifsúd
Mrs Bennet: Felicity Montague
Mrs Gardiner: Charlotte Palmer
Mary Bennett/Annabel de Bourgh: Leigh Quinn
Sir William Lucas/Mr Reynolds: Mark Rawlings
Caroline Bingley: Kirsty Rider
Elizabeth Bennett: Tafline Steen
Director: Deborah Bruce
Set Design: Max Jones
Costume Design: Tom Piper
Music: Lillian Henley