Pride and Prejudice, Bath Theatre Royal and touring

playsPridebingleyTHE revolving set for the Regent’s Park Theatre production of Simon Reade’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s best-loved book might look a little like the ironwork of New Orleans rather than Regency rural England, but it cleverly frames the action in this beautifully choreographed show.

Neither as deconstructed as the current Jane Eyre tour, nor conventionally formalised, Deborah Bruce’s production brings the Bennet family into giggling, swirling life – as well as having the most convincingly attractive Darcy I have ever seen.

playsPrideBennettwomenIn snatches, it captures the distress and desperation of a family of five daughters, who will be turned out of their family home on the death of their beloved father, when the entailed estate will pass to the nearest male relation. That he is the insufferably kowtowing Mr Collins doesn’t make it any easier.

Simon Reade’s spare script keeps much of the best known Austen wit and dialogue, with clever cuts and repetitions. Movement is the key, setting a dancing pace for the unfolding story of love, snobbery, stupidity, determination, goodness – and of course the pride and prejudice of the title.

playsPrideDarcyLizzieThe imposing Benjamin Dilloway, as Darcy, was fighting a cold, but it only gave a more gravelly chill to his voice, the sound of which immediately caught Lizzy Bennet’s attention. Our heroine is played with modern spirit and wry humour by recent graduate Tafline Steen.

The big “name” of the tour is Matthew Kelly, expanding his theatrical CV with a lovely performance as the put-upon Mr Bennet, who masks the unhappiness of his marriage with his ironic wit and genuine delight in his vivacious second daughter (Lizzy). He was well matched by Felicity Montagu’s wonderfully childlike Mrs Bennet, never happier than nipping up the wrought iron to make her point more forcibly.

playsPrideMrsBSteven Meo catches the unctuous, servility of Mr Collins – the way he almost levitates with his pantomime bows to his social superiors is hilarious. Jordan Mifsud has just the right blend of energy, naivety and charm as Mr Bingley, the wealthy young bachelor who is certainly in want of a wife.

This is Jane Austen pared down to its essentials, but retaining the fervour and passion of the original. Really worth a visit.


Posted in Reviews on .