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Pride and Prejudice at the Richmond Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 19th Nov 2016 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

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My good opinion once lost is lost forever.

Following a sucessful run at Regent's Park Theatre, Simon Reade's adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel is now touring the UK, starring Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu as Mr and Mrs Bennet.

Mrs Bennet (Felicity Montagu) is burdened with five daughters, none of them married yet. What to do? When eligible bachelor Mr Bingley (Jordan Mifsúd) arrives at his country home, he is immediately targeted as a prospective husband for her eldest daughter Jane (Hollie Edwin). Mrs Bennet's plan seems to work as Mr Bingley is enchanted by the lovely Jane. Meanwhile Mr Bingley's friend Mr Darcy (Benjamin Dilloway) is less impressed by the charms of the Bennet girls, clearly showing his disdain for Mrs Bennet's predatory behaviour. Elizabeth Bennet (Tafline Steen) overhears Mr Darcy's remarks and dismisses him as proud and arrogant.

Written almost 200 years ago, Jane Austen's novel, in Simon Reade's adaptation, is as delightful as ever. Of course this is not just a shallow romantic comedy about a money-grabbing woman, trying to marry off her daughters to the richest bidders. When Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, only men could inherit property, which means that in the case of Mr Bennet's demise his wife and five daughters would have to rely on the generosity of his heir - Mr Bennet's cousin Mr Collins - who might very well decide to turn them out of their own home. Considering the gravity of the situation, it is more than understandable that Mrs Bennet frantically tries to marry off her daughters so they won't be destitute in the future. When Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth, Mrs Bennet is overjoyed because, along with Elizabeth being taken care of, this would also mean that she is less likely to be evicted by the prospective heir. Therefore, Mrs Bennet's hostile reaction to Elizabeth's refusal to marry Mr Collins is not as selfish as it seems at first glance.

Although Tafline Steen is excellent as Elizabeth Bennet, who is one of the most endearing characters in literature, capturing her intelligence, wit, honesty, and compassion, Deborah Bruce's production clearly focusses on Felicity Montagu who inhabits the role of Mrs Bennet, giving an outstanding comical performance. Matthew Kelly is also very good as Mr Bennet, a gentleman who has married below his station, delivering some of the witties lines of the play with dry humour. Equally remarkable is Steven Meo's portrayal of Mr Collins, a frightful little man and busybody who is in great awe of his benefactor Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Doña Croll), a haughty aristocrat and Mr Darcy's aunt, who greatly disapproves of her nephew's interest in Elizabeth Bennet, expecting Darcy to marry her sickly daughter Annabel (Leigh Quinn). Mr Darcy has never seemed more arrogant and disdainful as being played by Benjamin Dilloway before he reveals his true feelings to Elizabeth.

Diverse casting adds to the attraction of this charming production, featuring an beautiful costumes (designed by Tom Piper), skilfully choreographed dances with a lovely musical score by Lillian Henley, and a flexible stage design consisting of a metallic structure and enhanced by projections of forests and soft landscapes to replace the open air venue at Regent's Park (designed by Max Jones).

By Carolin Kopplin

The run at the Richmond Theatre has now ended.

The next stop of the Pride and Prejudice UK Tour will be Bath.

Further information: http://prideandprejudiceplay.com/#tour

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes including one interval.

 

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