Deborah Bruce’s revival of Simon Reade’s 2015 adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is as witty and wonderful as ever
It is testament to Jane Austen’s unmistakable wit and wisdom that her work still continues to entertain audiences more than 200 years later. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in particular remains a favourite, with the love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy inspiring hundreds of film and theatre productions, including a new touring production directed by Deborah Bruce.
Set in the England in the late 18th century, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE tells the story of the five Bennet sisters and their hapless pursuit for love. It follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, and her repeated clashes with the single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. The book, which was originally published in 1813, remains one of the best-loved novels of all time and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
Fast-paced, funny and feisty, Deborah Bruce’s revival of Simon Reade’s 2015 adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is as witty and wonderful as ever. Reade has done a thoughtful and intelligent job of bringing Austen’s wit, wisdom and words to life on stage and the story moves at a fast pace with the actors moving around the stage in unison, almost like a dance. Max Jones’ revolving set design is equally impressive, the structure cleverly revolving from Mr Darcy’s Pemberley estate to Netherfield and the Bennet family home, to show both a change in location as well as a change in pace.
Tafline Steen shines as the headstrong Elizabeth Bennet. Instead of conforming to the long line of women who have played the role before her, Steen makes the part her own bringing Elizabeth’s intelligence, courage and quick wit to life on stage.
Benjamin Dilloway impresses as the abrupt and serious Mr Darcy. Dilloway exudes command and authority by towering over all the cast, bringing a certain venerability to the role and his battle of words with Elizabeth is a delight to watch.
But the real joy of the production comes from Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu as Mr and Mrs Bennet. The pair capture the lively relationship between the couple and their comic timing is impeccable. Montagu in particular stands out as the larger than life Mrs Bennet whose sole interest is to see her daughters get married.
While some scenes from the book have been understandably been shortened for this 155 minute production, the merging of some events doesn’t always work as well as expected. One example of this is the first meeting between Darcy and Elizabeth which is brushed over incredibly quickly. One minute, Darcy is slighting Elizabeth, the next he is admiring her ‘fine eyes’. Anyone who has not read the story may feel a little confused as to why the pair initially dislike each other so much, and when Darcy eventually does propose, Elizabeth’s refusal almost feels unjustified.
That said, for the most part, the structure works and the show is a joy to watch. If you’re a fan of Austen’s novel, you are sure to enjoy it. A production full of wit, wonder and wisdom with a charming cast and a stunning musical score to boot.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE runs at The Lowry until 15 October