Writer: Jane Austin
Adaptor: Simon Reade
Composer: Lillian Henley
Director: Deborah Bruce
Reviewer: Abbie Rippon
Regents Park Open Air Theatre’s stunning production of Pride and Prejudice is an absolute joy behold. A perfect glimpse into a world where manners, social rules and polite society mean everything; and finding a husband can mean even more.
Jane Austin finished writing this celebrated novel in 1797, yet her wit feels as fresh and enjoyable now as it must have done when the book was first published. Seeing a live production of Pride and Prejudice reminds the Austin fans out there that this is a very funny, intelligent and amusing book, and the comedy and warmth has been brought to life by a wonderful cast of performers under the direction of Deborah Bruce.
For readers unfamiliar with the plot, the story revolves around the Bennet family; in this production headed by Matthew Kelly as the unperturbed, unsociable Mr. Bennet, and Felicity Montagu as his wilful, unrelenting, hypochondriac wife. The pair are a delight to watch on stage and the quirks of their relationship reflect a certain amount of humorous truth. Montagu plays the obstinate matriarch of this family with a sense of the childish wilfulness that can be seen in some of her daughters so that the audience are all too aware that their silliness could be both inherited and learnt through exposure.
Tafline Steen is our heroine Miss Elizabeth Bennet and takes on this mammoth task of a role with the sense of spunk and veracity required to move an obdurate, conceited character like Darcy. She plays Elizabeth’s age just perfectly; so often an actress can forget that Austen’s most famous female character is only twenty. Steen brings a feeling of youth and exuberance to the role.
The cast as a whole are excellent; Leigh Quinn stands out in her secondary roles as Mary Bennet and Miss Annabel De Bourgh in an intelligent and comic interpretation of each. The entire ensemble of performers work together to make a truly stunning performance. What really stands out about the ensemble and Bruce’s exceptional direction; is how the cast work together with Max Jones’ set design to create the feel like the audience is part of the drama. We get a sense of what is going on beyond each doorway in Netherfield Park and Pemberly. The performance can feel intimate while at the same time allowing the audience to experience the social network in which these characters are a part of.
The way that Max Jones and Tina Machugh’s stunning set and lighting design transport the audience from location to location is a work of genius. The setting and locations in the novel are such an important part of the story and the design team have created a visual masterpiece in order to take the audience on Elizabeth’s journey with her.
This production is such a pleasant surprise. It is not every day that a novel of such notoriety is brought to the stage without losing some of the sense of imagery that can be gained from reading the book. This is not the case here – it is an exquisite production. That, is a ‘truth universally known’.
Runs until 15th October 2016 then touring | Image:Johan Persson