This afternoon (July 18th - I couldn't post this right away) at 2.15pm I finally saw a theatre production of my favourite novel, which I have been hoping to see for so long! And I was glad I waited for this production because it was an amazing production.
Adapted for the stage by Simon Reade.
Based on the novel by Jane Austen.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”
As the Bennet sisters haplessly search for love in Jane Austen’s ultimate romantic comedy, it is Mr Darcy who unwittingly finds his match.
Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice.
- Lady Catherine de Bourgh - Jane Asher
- Mr Collins - Ed Birch
- Miss Mary Bennet / Miss de Bourgh - Leah Brotherhead
- Miss Kitty Bennet - Imogen Byron
- Miss Georgiana Darcy - Sophia Capasso
- Miss Charlotte Lucas - Olivia Darnley
- Mrs Gardiner - Caroline Harker
- Mr Bingley - Rob Heaps
- Miss Jane Bennet - Yolanda Kettle
- Miss Elizabeth Bennet - Jennifer Kirby
- Mrs Bennet - Rebecca Lacey
- Miss Caroline Bingley - Frances McNamee
- Mr Darcy - David Oakes
- Mr Wickham - Barnaby Sax
- Miss Lydia Bennet - Eleanor Thorn
- Mr Bennet - Timothy Walker
- Sir William Lucas / Mr Reynolds - David Whitworth
I thought this was absolutely wonderful! I think it was very cleverly condensed to a 2 hour 15 minute production whilst still having the dialogue very accurate to the book - a lot of scenes and conversations were lifted directly from the book, which is always good (notably accurate scenes were the ones at Netherfield, the confrontation with Lady Catherine as well as the ending scenes - they included a lot of the chapters which are after the engagement in the book and which most adaptations leave out. It was so nice to see it so accurate and not tampering with the script - as Jane Austen's wonderful words don't need changing! (The producers of the 2005 film take note - they condensed it to 2 hours better than you did!)
The staging was very clever, allowing for changes of location well. In some stage performances I have heard of, due to staging they leave out many of the other places Lizzy visits (the visit to Pemberley was left out, someone once told me, in one they saw - how can Lizzy not go to Pemberley?!) I particularly liked the way they incorporated the portrait scene at Pemberley and the fact that they had a piano just to the side was a nice addition, as a piano does feature quite heavily. It was very clever.
I enjoyed the performances of all the actors a great deal; most notably Mr Darcy, (and not just because he is Darcy!) Mr Collins, Mr Bingley, Mr and Mrs Bennet. Well done to the actress's who played Lizzy and Lydia, both who were making their debut performances.
Mr Darcy: he was suitably proud and arrogant (and handsome!), strutting around the stage but he also showed his tender side when it was called for. He didn't model his interpretation of Darcy on either Firth or MacFadyen but he made it his own, and very like the Darcy I imagine when reading the novel (I now have someone to imagine when I next re-read the story!) His sparring matches with Lizzy were wonderful and he was the master of subtly; his reactions to Caroline Bingley's constant attention, Mr Collins's unwelcome attention and the wish for Lizzy's undivided attention were brilliant.
Mr Collins: What a fun character! He has always been one of my favourite secondary characters in all Austen's novels and he was a delight to watch. He was extremely obnoxious and very funny, always getting in the way and doing all the wrong things. You couldn't help but laugh when he was on stage!
Mr Bingley: He was just what Mr Bingley ought to be. Sensible, good humoured and I never saw such happy manners. (That sounds familiar... anyway! :P) He was all affability and he made me smile. He wasn't a complete bumbling fool as he sometimes can be played but he was a young, joyful, handsome man and very sweet to dear Jane.
Mr and Mrs Bennet: They were a wonderful pair. There was a great connection between the two of them and Mrs Bennet was suitable hysterical at times and embarrassing at others while Mr Bennet was always a great tease. I think they worked well off the reactions of each other and performed their roles brilliantly.
Now, I don't want to leave the other wonderful cast members out!
The Lucas's: Charlotte was played well, one of my favourite interpretations of her character in fact. She was not a dull Charlotte and she still managed to give her a more lively character than is sometimes seen which was nice. Sir William Lucas was the rambling fool he was meant to be, popping up here and there and making us all smile with his pointless comments and observations. He then made a stately and informative Mr Reynolds, when showing Lizzy and her Aunt around Pemberley.
Wickham: Wickham has a decidedly smaller part in this production but I really enjoyed his character. He was everything charming and I could have been easily drawn in by him if I didn't know the story already! He was a very good humoured man and perfectly relaxed and at ease, easy to fall for. What I commend him for is his change when he appears with Lydia; he seems rightly subdued and a little embarrassed at the whole affair, as he should be, as well as already seemingly becoming annoyed at his new insufferable wife!
Mrs Gardiner: There was no Mr Gardiner but Mrs Gardiner was still the sweet and favourite Aunt to Elizabeth. She also had a smaller part but when she was on stage she was happy and friendly and very motherly to Elizabeth. She had more spirit and character than other interpretations of Mrs Gardiner, which made a nice change.
Georgiana: Unfortunately, she was hardly on stage but her few lines she spoke were innocent and sweet. She was a more confident Georgiana than I have seen in the past, but then again, she needed to make the most of her short stage time!
Caroline Bingley: She was haughty and stuck up, as she should be. She was very irritating and it was clear that Darcy had no interest in her what so ever... She reminded me very much of the Caroline I imagine from the novel.
Throughout Pride and Prejudice there are a number of letters sent to various characters. I liked the way that the characters who sent the letters would appear on stage and 'read' the letters as the recipient would be reading it. This was particularly effective at the end; in most adaptations (1995 and 2005 included) once Lizzy and Darcy are engaged it either skips to the wedding and then ends or it just ends there. Some of my favourite chapters in the novel are the final ones when Lizzy and Darcy spend a little more time together and ask questions about when they fell for each other and then we see the reactions of all the other characters, predominantly through a number of letters. It was nice for these to be included, having Lizzy read the letter she sends to her Aunt telling her to 'indulge her fancy in every possible flight' with Darcy sending his love, 'at least, any he can spare from me', followed by Darcy's letter to his Aunt which made me laugh in the way he spoke it, sounding rather smug with himself for going against her and pleased to announce it was her visit to Lizzy who gave him hope she cared for him (!) and then a little note from Caroline as well; this sort of epilogue to pride and prejudice is, as I have said, normally not included and I was glad it was for a change.
The plot was naturally altered and certain scenes were condensed due to time constraints and the fact that it was a live stage performance! But, bravo to the script adapter as he condensed the story very well and it felt as if most of the scenes were included (even though naturally they were not) and as I have said already numerous times, the language was not tampered with and it was wonderfully accurate to the book! (I think you can tell by now that I was pleased they kept it true to the book, as far as they could!)
I think my favourite scenes would be...
The dance at Netherfield because although it was shorter than the original, the two of them were great together. The dance was very awkward and so therefore fun to watch!
The scenes at Netherfield when Jane was ill were very complete and accurate and the four of them (Darcy, Bingley, Lizzy and Caroline) acted together brilliantly.
All the proposals were great: Collins's was hilarious, Bingley's was so sweet and Darcy's first was very intense and second extremely romantic :)
I also loved, as I have already mentioned, the ending when they included the letters and reactions of the other characters to Lizzy and Darcy's engagement.
What was rather funny was the random pigeons which kept landing on stage and walking through Netherfield or Rosings or Longbourn :P
I thoroughly enjoyed this, despite the ridiculous heat and lack of shade, and I could have happily gone back in a few hours to see the evening performance! I also wished to be up there with them, as it looked like a lot of fun and I could have fitted in nicely I believe ;) I wouldn't have taken much training as I know most of the words and even found myself mouthing along - whether that is a good thing or a bad thing I shall leave it to you to decide!
A thoroughly enjoyable day out and I only wish it were not over so soon or ending so soon so as to make the possibility of seeing it again an impossibility...
Your affectionate friend,