As an avid Jane Austen fan, it seems quite fitting that my first review of 2017 is on the touring production of Pride and Prejudice. Probably one of the most iconic and well-loved of Austen’s novels, the Theatre Royal in Bath is full to the brim. I’m unsure of what to expect, as this tale has been portrayed so often (with certain memorable wet shirt scenes), it’s difficult to imagine how they will reenact the charm on stage.
The set is surprisingly more gothic than I anticipated; it’s a dark green and gold metal structure with steps leading up to a balcony, which would look more at home in a production of Northanger Abbey. The revolving stage works seamlessly to link the scenes together and makes the most of the smaller space offered at the Theatre Royal. Although, I feel that the balcony level could be used more, especially for the moments where characters recite letters.
Nevertheless, arguably the most cherished characters, Mr and Mrs Bennett don’t fall short
and offer much hilarity. Matthew Kelly plays Mr Bennet with ease; firm, exasperated, jovial, yet sarcastic. Meanwhile, Mrs Bennet (Felicity Montagu) is the ultimate hoot; loud, obnoxious and bossy. One scene that sticks in my mind in particular is when Lizzie (Tafline Steen) refuses Mr Collins’ (Steven Meo) proposal and Mrs Bennet loses her mind, transforms into a wailing banshee and clings onto the bannister as Mr Bennet attempts to escape up the stairs.
Similarly, as previously mentioned, Mr Collins is boisterously played by Steven Meo, he proves to be one of the most memorable characters as he bounds across the stage in his irritating manner; charmingly Mr Collins-like.
The sisters are wonderfully cast, Lizzie (Steen) is confidently spoken and sarcastic – although a lot of what she says is tinged with sarcasm, which can become a little irritating.
Unfortunately we miss any bonding that occurs between Lizzie and her closest sister, Jane (Hollie Edwin). However, it is made up for in the hilarious group scenes between all the sisters; this is where we see all their personalities come to the fore. Lydia (Mari Izzard) is delightfully dim – however I am underwhelmed by her entrance as the newly wed Mrs Wickham, it is surprisingly understated. Yet again, this could have been an opportunity to use the balcony to allow her to make a big announcement.
Mr Darcy (Benjamin Dilloway), although played perfectly pompously, lacks charisma and also speaks very quietly, so his presence on stage is not as omnipotent as it should be. This affects the last scene between him and Lizzie, which doesn’t have the right mix of passion and intensity the scene usually alludes. Also, the lighting is too dim at this point – in fact it’s unchanging from the previous scene between Lizzie and Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Doña Croll) – which makes little sense as both scenes are polar opposite in tone. Overall, the stage could be lighter throughout to avoid the strange gothic vibe the production chooses to draw upon.
On the whole, this production is enjoyable and hits the humorous moments perfectly. Without a doubt, Mr & Mrs Bennet and Mr Collins steal the show; it’s worth seeing for that reason alone. As an Austen fan, you won’t be disappointed by this adaptation. Although there are parts that may need work, overall it’s a charmingly hilarious show you should take you nan to.