PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Jane Austen
Illyria, Tour Information www.illyria.uk.com
Runs: 2h 20m: one interval
Review: Alan Geary: Newstead Abbey: I2th August 2010
Illyria are back with an old favourite.
There’s a very valid reason why, after seven years, open-air theatre-goers all over the land, possibly beyond, won’t let Illyria drop Pride and Prejudice from their repertoire. As this new production again demonstrates, they do it extremely well.
On the whole, acting standards are not quite up to some previous productions, 2003 and 2004 for example, but all the same they’re high.
Again, amazingly little of Jane Austen’s plot is omitted; and very few of her characters are cut, yet it moves at a cracking pace. Again, there’s a tacit reference to the famous BBC adaptation when Darcy, with a knowing look at the ladies in the audience, mentions swimming in that lake.
All the detailed touches of humour in character and situation are here – the gallery scene at Pemberley is particularly funny – and, in a plot involving much to-ing and fro-ing of letters, there’s an awful lot of speed writing with giant feathers.
But present also are Austen’s moral purpose and critical eye; all the proposal scenes are done especially well. It’s mainly these which show Elizabeth (an authoritative Miriam Jay Allwright) as the moral centre. And there’s her demolition of Lady Catherine.
Two of the other sisters, each of them dimmer and shallower than Elizabeth, given the problem of differentiation, are nicely done by Becky George. She also brings out the pathos as well as the comedy in Charlotte; and she’s good as Mrs Reynolds, with a Scots accent.
The men are especially strong in this production. In particular Robert Took does wonders. As the long-suffering Mr Bennet, he has to put up with, not only Mrs Bennet (Ruth Cataroche), but five daughters as well. He also takes three female roles, including, most successfully, the arch-snob, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Andrew Lindfield, whose main part is Darcy, is excellent as the repulsively smug and sanctimonious Mr Collins; he could hand-wring for England.
Voice projection, always crucial in the wide-open spaces, is admirable. Admittedly, this is partly down to some otherwise inappropriate overt declamation to the audience.
Oliver Gray, whose adaptation this is, also directs.
Miriam Jay Allwright
Director/Adaptation/Music: Oliver Gray
Costume: Clurlywilly Prod