Pride and Prejudice fails to match any of the intensities conjured from reading the novel. Any moments of nostalgia are stripped and what remains is a static romance with an impressive set design.
Regents Park’s Pride and Prejudice reinvents itself with a second national tour since the production’s inception in 2003. In Woking’s Ambassador Theatre, the Bennett family are back on stage and with a swiftly paced 160-minute performance.
Sadly, the production fails to match any of the intensities conjured from reading the novel. Any moments of nostalgia are stripped and what remains is a static romance with an impressive set design.
Mr Darcy, the renowned image of masculinity, is portrayed by Benjamin Dilloway. Upon his arrival his frown imitates those (many) who have been previous Darcys, and any positive attributes end there. Whether seething, ashamed, or in love, despite fitting into the patriarchal idea of broad shoulders and height, there are no feelings of adoration.
Tafline Steen’s understudy, Jessica D’arcy, despite being thrown into this situation last minute, put in a decent effort to master the part. Being Elizabeth Bennett comes with many expectations. D’arcy delivers crucial moments with smugness and pride, yet similarly to Dilloway, there are no intense moments to stir the audience.
The ensemble cast , however, drive the play to its end.
Matthew Kelly’s Mr Bennett, and in particular Felicity Montagu as the overbearing mother, use their parenthood status to demonstrate the struggle of dealing with five single daughters; to such extent, one wishes not to procreate oneself. The chemistry between them is somewhat exhilarating, yet upon explaining why he married the socially debauched Mrs Bennett, an insight into Mr Bennett’s passion is apparent.
Montagu is the force behind this production. Right to the end, the burden of five daughters accentuates and adds to her woes. What would any mother do in this situation?
The sisters all portray innocence and some their maturity, their individual personas, are apparent yet the sibling rivalry which is expected is missing. Lydia’s outlandish behaviour, that would shake 18th century readers to smithereens, fails to take this period drama to another level.
Upon the arrival of Wickham, a protagonist is immediately sensed. The moment he grabs Elizabeth’s attention, his forthcoming plotting becomes apparent. Daniel Abbot outshines his peers in this production.
The set design, Max Jones’s creation, is impressive. Similar to Bristol Old Vic’s Jane Eyre, it minimises all extravagance by using a basic structure. In this instance, the rotation of an iron like manor combined with a digital screen to transform each scene from place to place. It provides the play with an air of grandeur that fits with the themes of Pride and Prejudice.
Sian Williams utilises her expertise in movement with her ballroom direction, an effective replication of period drama which her direction accentuates. At the final moment of Darcy winning the love of Elizabeth, the final disappointment comes – being deprived of the moment of watching two people come together. This may have something to do with the lack of composition.
Lillian Henley’s score around the ballroom moments heightens the dance scenes, yet there is no build up to the moments before the first kiss; instead, with a backdrop of silence, they proceed to their happiness.
Deborah Bruce’s direction keeps the momentum flowing with quick snappy scenes. It is a play that will entertain some people in awe of period romances.
Overall the disengagement may have something to do being staged in a large space. It lacks the extra something needed to anger, entertain, and sadden, amongst many other emotions, created in intimate venues.