Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was adapted for the stage and directed by Rebecca Dallaway and Hannah Tomlinson. It was performed at the Edward Alleyn Theatre, from 19th to 22nd February 2020.
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Mr Bennet - Andrew Cunningham
Mrs Bennet - Sheree Clapperton
Elizabeth Bennet - Anna Gould
Jane Bennet - Philippa Watts
Mary Bennet - Emily Lamm
Kitty Bennet - Caroline Hutchins
Lydia Bennet - Cate Burns
Sir William Lucas - John Hedley
Lady Lucas - Lynda Hansom
Charlotte Lucas - Hayley Blundell
Mr Collins - Tim Bond
Mr Bingley - Daniel Aarons
Miss Bingley - Kate Boydell
Mr Darcy - Jarod Jagger
Mrs Reynolds - Lynda Hansom
Lady Catherine de Bourgh - Louise Norman
Miss de Bourgh - Caroline Hutchins
Mr Gardiner - John Hedley
Mrs Gardiner - Katrina Rublowsky
Colonel Fitzwilliam - Rob Brown
Denny - Mo Matz
Wickham - Yohann Philip
Director - Rebecca Dallaway
Assistant Director - Hannah Tomlinson
Production Manager - Jan Rae
Stage Manager - Elizabeth Holden
Assistant Stage Managers - Jan Rae, Roger Orr, Robert Brown and Anne-Lise Vassoille
Costumes - Jane Jones and Lara Payne
Hair & make-up - Denise Biffin
Lighting - Ian Jones
Sound - Lydia Dickie
Publicity Design - Michael Marsden
Photographer - Joshua Bradley
Front of House - Jane Alexander
Box Office - Lesley Hedley
Review by Mike Foster
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a story in possession of a good reputation must be in permanent need of re-adaptation.”
And so, with my trivial misquote, it has come to pass. Fresh from its appearance on film and television, Rebecca Dallaway and Hannah Tomlinson have revamped Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for the Dulwich stage. Their production lacked sumptuous sets and bucolic rural backdrops. Some would see the endeavour as brave. A few may miss the sight of Mr Darcy in a wet shirt on TV. In fact, the play marked a triumphant return to the original language and characters of Jane Austen, stripped of needless frippery.
The directors (also the authors) let the audience listen to the dialogue on stage with minimal distractions. Rather than an elaborate box set, the action was against drapes. Scene changes were restricted to furniture changes, executed at commendable speed by the backstage team. Lines were despatched with confidence over 25 scenes, allowing the audience to enjoy a continual flow of conversation, as seasons waxed and waned.
The play used exchanges of letters to keep the plot moving. Some of them were a bit long, and had the potential to exasperate the audience. But the directors were ingenious in putting the writers behind a desk on stage, facing out, to deliver some of the contents of their letters in front of the recipients, who filled in the rest. A nice touch.
The stripped-back set provided the actors with an opportunity to show off their costumes, selected with élan by Jane Jones and her team. Dances are central to Austen’s novels, and Gill Daly staged them well. As the action unfolded, it was good to see silent banter in the background. There's no point in seeing surplus characters standing around like dummies.
Pride & Prejudice tells the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet, a married couple of comfortable, but not excessive, means, keen to see their five daughters married to men of consequence, not least because the future tenure of their house was uncertain. Mrs Bennet’s histrionics to that cause were sublimely captured by Sheree Clapperton, while Andrew Cunningham’s stoic calm as Mr Bennet offered the perfect counterbalance.
In Pride & Prejudice, a great deal hinges on the character of Elizabeth Bennett, who needs to be tough enough to turn down unwanted suitors (despite the protests of her mother) while being sufficiently subtle to engage sympathy. Anna Gould succeeded in both respects and many more. She is a newcomer to the Players, I believe, and I hope to see her on stage again. Jarod Jagger was given the task of making Mr Darcy as dour as possible, and he certainly delivered. It was a pleasure (and a relief) to see him unbend to win Lizzy's hand in the second half.
Lizzy’s sister Jane (Philippa Watts) was a pleasant, uncomplicated, soul hoping to receive the attentions of the equally pleasant Mr Bingley. His opinionated sister (Kate Boydell) did her best to throw a spanner in their works, but love ultimately conquered all. Younger sisters Lydia (Cate Burns) and Kitty (Caroline Hutchins) made the very most of the limited opportunities provided to them. I loved their enthusiasm. Particularly Lydia after she was married to the scoundrel Wickham (Yohann Philip). I would have liked to see a little more of Wickham, to judge his nature better. But I certainly got the drift of his character.
The fifth Bennet was the bookish Mary (Emily Lamm). She has been overlooked by past adaptations, but this production put her close to the centre of the action, offering wisdom beyond her years. Mary never married well: Austen matched her with a clerk. But she did well to plough her own furrow - rather like Jane Austen, herself.
Mr Collins (Tim Bond) was a solid, fairly unlikeable, character, bouncing from one woman to another in search of marriage without bothering too much about the emotions involved. No sooner had Lizzy turned him down, he was married to Charlotte Lucas (Hayley Blundell), who liked the security he offered, but probably not much else.
We must also pay tribute to Lynda Hanson, who played two parts with aplomb – Lady Lucas and Mrs Reynolds. And then there was Lady Catherine de Bourgh, possibly the most unpleasant old baggage I have come across on stage. Louise Norman played the role with great flair but I would advise her never to get typecast by it.