PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
The REP, Birmingham, Tuesday 8th November, 2017
Not the Donald Trump story but Jane Austen’s finest and funniest novel, brought to the stage in this touring production by Regent’s Park Theatre, in a sparkling adaptation by Simon Reade.
Reade captures the wit of the dialogue and the spirit of each character, and director Deborah Bruce includes moments of broader comedy, as well as linking scenes with stylised sequences that evoke both period, character and storytelling. Choreography plays a huge part in creating atmosphere and adding to the fun, courtesy of movement director Sian Williams and beautiful, haunting music composed by Lillian Henley. The characters, dressed by Tom Piper, inhabit the elegant revolving set (designed by Max Jones) – decorative railings and sweeping staircases serve for all locations, aided by Tina Machugh’s expressive lighting. Production values are high and the excellent cast lives up to them.
Felicity Montagu is in superb form as Mrs Bennet, desperate to marry off her five daughters to whomever crosses their path. Matthew Kelly is equally delightful as her long-suffering husband and the indulgent father of his brood. Of the girls, Hollie Edwin certainly looks the part as the pretty one, Jane, and Mari Izzard bounces around as the spirited one, Lydia. Of course, it is Elizabeth who is our focus, winningly played by Tafline Steen, tempering Elizabeth’s headstrong nature with charm and humour. Benjamin Dilloway towers over proceedings as a sour-faced but handsome Mr Darcy and it’s not long before we are willing the pair to get together, in this quintessential rom-com.
There is strong support from Steven Meo as the insufferable parson Mr Collins and Daniel Abbott is a suitably dashing and roguish Mr Wickham. Dona Croll impresses as the haughty Lady Catherine De Bourgh, a forerunner of Lady Bracknell, and I also like Kirsty Rider’s snobbish Miss Caroline.
Elizabeth and Darcy may be the stars but it is the double-act of Montagu and Kelly, two seasoned performers with exquisite comic timing, that have the star quality among this comparatively young and inexperienced ensemble. Mr and Mrs Bennet are a joy to behold.
Delivered with a lightness of touch, this is an utterly charming evening at the theatre, a refreshing retelling of the classic tale. Austen seems as fresh and funny as she ever was and her wry observations of human nature, albeit in a rarefied and bygone milieu, still delight and ring true.