Muddy reviews: Pride and Prejudice
Who doesn’t love the story of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy? It’s a story that’s had a long life and numerous interpretations since Jane Austen’s novel was first published in 1813, both on screen and on stage.
And last night, at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking, I was immersed in the stunning production by Regent’s Park Theatre. It was a joy to behold – warm, funny, charming and with a good dose of kooky. I loved it. For Austen fans, this is a must-see.
The story, of course, is set in England in the Regency era and revolves around the Bennet family: Mr and Mrs, plus their five daughters.
Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu are marvellous as Mr and Mrs Bennet. He is the calm, unemotional, almost brusque family patriarch, and she, delightfully, is the exact opposite: flighty, over-dramatic and desperate to get each of her five daughters hitched.
Montagu is wonderful – opening and closing the play with the famous line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” She’s the lynchpin that holds not only her family together, but also the play.
Last night, understudy Jessica D’Arcy played Elizabeth Bennet, and she stepped in admirably, bringing the right amount of sass and spirit to the role. Benjamin Dilloway as the tall and handsome Mr Darcy, was aloof and proud, capturing the character’s social awkwardness with finesse.
Of the other Bennet sisters, Mari Izzard stood out as the giddy and frivolous Lydia who runs away with Mr Wickham; and Hollie Edwin was lovely as the good-hearted and beautiful Jane.
Other standouts were Steven Meo who brings the right amount of pomp and ridiculousness to the role of Mr Collins, the cousin of Mr Bennet and heir to the Bennet estate; Kirsty Rider, as the imperious and disdainful Miss Bingley; and the fabulous Dona Croll as the snobbish Lady Catherine De Bourgh.
The set is a huge wrought iron affair, set over two tiers and revolving, which takes us cleverly between the various grand estates.
Simon Reade’s adaptation brings a good amount of Austen’s humour to the play. The romance and humour of Pride and Prejudice are no doubt the reason it remains so popular – and last night’s show captured all that and more. It was a wonderful account of a era where manners and class rules mean so much – but finding a husband means even more.
Pride and Prejudice is on until Sat Oct 29 at the New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, GU21 6GQ. Tel: 0844 871 7645. atgtickets.com