[Photo: Johan Persson]
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
The Lowry, Salford Quays
Until Saturday 15th October, 2016
One of the most treasured works in English literature, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has formed the basis for countless cinematic and theatrical adaptations over the years, though fresh from a second sell-out summer season at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Simon Reade’s sparkling 2013 stage adaptation most definitely ranks among the very best (and there’s not a wet shirt or even a zombie in sight!).
By now surely everybody is somewhat familiar with the tale of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, their five contrasting daughters and the various romances that blossom between the beautiful Jane and affable Mr. Bingley, the frivolous Lydia and villainous Mr. Wickham and, of course, the intelligent, headstrong Elizabeth and the handsome, brooding Mr. Darcy. Not forgetting Mr. Bennet’s farcical cousin Mr. Collins (the heir to the Bennet estate) and his condescending and domineering patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Mr. Darcy’s opinionated and thoroughly disapproving aunt).
Playing out on designer Max Jones’s fabulous revolving set (featuring an imposing two-tier wrought iron gate and a woodland backdrop that notably reflects the original Regent’s Park setting), Deborah Bruce’s smooth flowing and undeniably charming production presents all the essential elements of Austen’s novel at their most elegant and observant, highlighting the sharp wit and humour of the piece, breathing fresh new life into the now two hundred year old source text and firmly emphasising the financial and social significance of a good marriage.
Whereas many previous adaptations have been either notably comedic or notably dramatic, Reade’s thoughtful and expertly balanced version takes things a little further, exploring the character’s inner thoughts and personal reflections, all the while fully allowing the language to shine through and giving us a good sense of the irony and social commentary for which Austen is best known.
Now of course in order to effectively bring across the dexterity and satire that naturally exudes from the text requires a strong cast accomplished enough to pull it off, and with the superb ensemble that has been assembled for this production, that is most definitely the case.
Perhaps best known for her role as the long suffering personal assistant Lynn in I’m Alan Partridge, the brilliant Felicity Montagu excels in the principle comedic role of the skittish and over anxious Mrs. Bennet, with fine support from Matthew Kelly as the cynical and equally humorous Bennet patriarch.
In the mammoth central role of Elizabeth, Tafline Steen turns in an exceptionally assured performance as the Bennet’s endearing second daughter, and her lively manner is very well contrasted by leading man Benjamin Dalloway as the sturdy and aloof Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Though very much an ensemble piece, there are however standout performances from Dona Croll’s Lady Catherine, Steven Meo’s Mr. Collins, Hollie Edwin’s Jane and Jordan Mifsud’s Mr. Bingley.
For anyone with a penchant for costume dramas, quality theatre and the eloquence and irony of the English language, this is a joyous production not to be missed.
Running Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at The Lowry, Salford Quays: Saturday 15th October, 2016.
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.