Thursday, 26 November 2009

Pride & Prejudice - Richmond Theatre

Pride & Prejudice
Writer: Jane Austen
Adaptor: Simon Reade
Director: Toby Frow
Reviewer: Diane Higgins

Simon Reade's adaptation directed by Toby Frow, brings together the classic text of Austen's work, with all her well loved characters plus music (Richard Hammarton) and dance (Sam Spencer-Lane).

The set design by Christopher Woods was minimal. Its raised and angled circular platform, few pieces of furniture and chandelier relied totally on the actors to set the scenes and create the action/atmosphere of the late 1790's.

The opening dance and music introduced us to the plays many Characters with Mary Bennet playing solo violin. The first scene introduces us to Longbourn house, home of the Bennet family. Susan Hampshire was entirely plausible as the neurotic Mrs Bennet, anxious to marry off her daughters with Peter Ellis as the long suffering Mr Bennet resigned to being the father of five silly daughters. His eldest daughter Jane was convincingly played by Violet Ryder, whilst his acknowledged favourite the feisty Elizabeth was played by Katie Lightfoot in a very creditable professional theatre debut.

The other sisters being a predictably quiet and musical Mary (actor/musician Victoria Hamnet) and Leah Whitaker and Lydia Larson as the youngest Bennets. Nicholas Taylor was a haughty Darcy with Alex Felton and Leo Staar as Bingley and Wickham. Carolyn Pickles was an imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Tom Mothersdale as the obsequious Mr Collins seemed to somehow overplay the role with his stiff comedic actions, when Austen's words would have sufficed.

The comedy aspect of this whole adaptation has been given a much greater emphasis. Austen's Novel is full of subtle humour, but with hobby horses, chairs framing Pemblerly portraits, scuttling around with props and the general noise it has a feeling that is a cross between an 15 minute version of an Austen play with a splash of panto.

I think it can be universally acknowledged that this is a very successful production as this Richmond audience were enjoying every minute with anticipatory laughter before the words had even been uttered. Jane Austen fans were here in force and appreciated this bold new adaptation.

Runs until 28th November
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