Pride and PrejudicePosted by Laurence Green
Laurence Green sees a witty and insightful adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.
The perils of the marriage market with all its passions confusions and snobbery have rarely been conveyed as wittily and insightfully as in Jane Austen's beloved 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice and Simon Reade's elegant new stage adaptation at the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park managed to bring a renewed freshness and charm to the work.
The play begins and ends with the bustling Mrs Bennet stating "It's a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." That reinforces Austen's point about the social and economic importance of the marital transaction and as the Bennet sisters haplessly search for love in the ultimate romantic comedy, it is Mr Darcy, who initially, is not seen as perfect marriage material, unwittingly finds his match.
This is a joyful, intelligent production, yet what is absent is the persistent ironic voice and interior reflections of Jane Austen herself. Reade strips out the novel's dialogue and incorporates into the action the character's private thoughts, for example we actually hear Mr Bennet ruefully admitting to his daughter Elizabeth that his wife's "ignorance and folly greatly contributed to me wife's amusement."
Director Deborah Bruce's production certainly looks a treat in this splendid setting with its vivid dresses and bonnets, country dancing and revolving two-tier set with wrought iron gates and railings suggesting a variety of locations and strongly conveying the atmosphere of the piece.
Jennifer Kirby impresses in her professional stage debut capturing the wit and mischief of Elizabeth Bennet and there is a spark in her relationship with David Oakes's dark and brooding Darcy. Rebecca Lacey makes the most of Mrs Bennet's incessantly chattering vulgarity and Timothy Walker is naturally funny as the constantly ironic Mr Bennet, while also revealing the character's inadequacies as a father. Leah Brotherhead gives a fine performance as the plain, untalented Mary Bennet.
Best of all, is Jane Asher who gives a masterclass in snobbery as the icily, imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
If you think you've seen all you want to see about Pride and Prejudice with the recent film and television adaptations think again for this production is a total delight from start to finish and makes an ideal choice for a balmy summer evening.
Pride and Prejudice runs until July 20
Box office 0844 826 4242
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