Pride and Prejudice, Tuesday 21st February, Wales Millennium Centre, Reivewer: Hannah Hopkins
Simon Reade’s stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a fabulous, heart-warming and unpretentious performance. Shortened and compacted only out of necessity for the stage, the style remains close to that of the original novel and all the key moments are retained. There is a lot of ground to cover with the play, yet it is paced excellently and nothing feels too unnecessarily drawn-out.
Surprisingly, this is a very comedic production. The excellent Matthew Kelly plays Mr Bennet perfectly as a man who is struggling amidst an all-female household and Felicity Montagu as Mrs Bennet puts forward a highly comedic yet believable performance. These two are ultimately the stand-out performances from the production, on the basis of their comedic timing.
This is an intelligent and charming production, but there is no pretention. From the initial awkwardness of the central courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, played out by Tafline Steel and the fantastically haughty Benjamin Dilloway, to the brilliantly casted Stephen Meo as sycophantic clergyman Mr Collins, the production retains a nod to the novel’s social commentary. Steen is witty, sarcastic and determined, as well as likable as Elizabeth. Benjamin Dilloway plays the originally misunderstood and bad-tempered Mr Darcy well, making the transition to likeable gentleman and suitor of Elizabeth effectively. The portrayal of the five Bennet sisters does well to convey their individual personalities, yet it is Mari Izzard’s skittish and vibrant Lydia Bennet, who stood out as adding a new, fresh dimension to the performance. There is a brilliant synergy to the entire cast, each managing to convey a strong personality and unique personality for each of their characters.
The staging is incredibly clever: the action takes place on a two-leveled revolving set of green and gold metal railings, which allows the action to seamlessly progress from one scene to the next. With only the addition of chairs and tables and candelabras, though minimal, this space is utilised to the utmost. One of my favourite scenes is where Elizabeth is shown the portraits on the walls of Pemberley – I won’t reveal what happens, but this is a prime example of how cleverly the space is used, and reflects the intricacies of the performance well.
by Hannah Hopkins