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Pride and Prejudice at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 14th Mar 2015 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

Emilia Williams as Elizabeth Bennet -- Photo by Bill Knight

Happiness is entirely a matter of chance. 

Following her impressive production of Jane Eyre last year, Bryony J. Thompson has now adapted Jane Austen's most popular classic. Of course this novel has already been adapted for stage and screen - and TV - many times. Who will ever forget Colin Firth's portrayal of the proud Mr Darcy, especially his refreshing swim in the lake?

Mrs Bennet is feverishly looking for prospective husbands for her teenage daughters. Although her family is not poor, once her husband passes on everything will be inherited by a distant cousin and she and her daughters will be destitute. Mr Bingley, a wealthy bachelor, has just arrived and Mrs Bennet urges her husband to invite him over so he can see her beautiful daughters and hopefully marry one of them. Charles Bingley, a charming young man, is enchanted by Jane and Mrs Bennet's hopes seem to come true. His friend Mr Darcy observes the dealings of the Bennet family with cool arrogance and although admitting that Jane is beautiful dismisses the rest of the family, making a snide remark about Elizabeth, which she overhears. From then on their relationship is fraught at best. With Jane in safe hands, Mrs Bennet has set her eyes on Mr Bennet's cousin - the future heir - as Elizabeth's prospective husband. Yet Lizzie, an intelligent and self-confident girl, is not interested in the bumbling fool. She refuses to marry him. Mrs Bennet is outraged.

The performance begins with a tableau of the main characters before Mrs Bennet initiates the action. The set and the costumes, also designed by Ms Thompson, are held in cream colours and white. The cast is on stage for the entire performance, playing multiple roles - with the exception of Emilia Williams (Elizabeth Bennet) and Danny Frost (Fitzwilliam Darcy).

The main problem of adapting a novel for the stage (or screen) is that often so much is lost. Obviously, sacrifices have to be made because a performance should not last much longer than two hours. Ms Thompson solves one of the main problems in a very original way - the actors comment on the characters they are playing but "in character". Bryony J. Thompson has already used this style in Jane Eyre. This idea works very well as it enriches the characters as well as adding a lot of humour to the production and embracing Jane Austen's beautiful language.

The cast is quite exceptional. Emilia Williams is entirely convincing as Elizabeth Bennet, an intelligent and thoughtful young woman with wit and esprit. Danny Frost is equally good as the aloof Darcy who coolly states: "My good opinion once lost is lost forever". Yet there is more to the man than his arrogance as we all know and Mr Frost conveys Darcy's true character without doing much. George Haynes is a surprisingly versatile actor switching between the sociable Charles Bingley, the swashbuckling George Wickham, the clumsy Mr Colins, and the amiable Colonel Fitzwilliam within seconds. Lainey Shaw is equally impressive when she changes between the chatty busybody Mrs Bennet and the forbidding Lady Catherine de Burgh - who has an uncanny resemblance to Margaret Thatcher - in an instant, among many other parts. Daniel Brennan is very good as the witty, jovial Mr Bennet, who seems to be particularly close to his daughter Elizabeth. Alice Coles is lovely as the sprightly, somewhat naive Lydia Bennet and the quiet yet charming Charlotte Lucas. Carla Freeman also convinces in her various roles, especially as the beautiful and sensitive Jane Bennet.  

This fast-paced and witty production directed and adapted by Bryony J. Thompson captures the beautiful language of the novel and its rich characters.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 4th April 2015

Rosemary Branch Theatre

2 Shepperton Road, Islington, London, N1 3DT

Box office: 020 7704 6665

http://www.rosemarybranch.co.uk/index.php/programme/36-pride-prejudice

Comments

1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 2 years ago
    Thanks, Carolin. This sounds like a clever adaptation which is presented well.
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