Monday, 6 October 2014

Pride & Prejudice at The Pavilion Theatre

Pride & Prejudiceleft to right: Madelyn Spencer (Kitty Bennett), Tiffany Hoy (Elizabeth Bennett), Margaret Olive (Mrs Bennett) and Sandy Smith (Mrs Gardiner).

I feel I should confess straight up that I am a devoted Pride & Prejudice fan. I studied the Jane Austen classic at school, spent hours watching the BBC miniseries and despite my best efforts to hate it, rather enjoyed the 2005 remake with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Attempting to recreate this most beloved story on stage is no small feat. First there is the difficulties in condensing the book into a 2 hour performance (there is a reason the BBC made a 6 part series that combined, was over 5 hours in duration) ultimately scenes are cut while still attempting to maintain the flow of the story, secondly, attempting to convey the wit of Jane Austen's novel does not always translate to the stage and thirdly (and perhaps the most important) as soon as Colin Firth stepped out of that lake he ruined any poor man's hopes of ever playing Mr Darcy to a level that would satisfy the female population - that includes you Matthew Macfadyen - or so I thought.

Pride & Prejudice, Cameron Hutt (Mr Darcy) and Tiffany Hoy (Elizabeth Bennett)
Cameron Hutt as Mr Darcy is arguably the most authentic character on the stage with his cocked brow and arrogant demeanor. He struts and preens to perfection and is endearingly awkward during the second half of the play. The dynamic between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett (played beautifully by Tiffany Hoy) is entirely believable which is great given how essential it is to the story. While the other characters have their own importance and are integral to the plot, it is this core relationship that either makes or breaks the play.

Hoy exudes the independence of spirit and casual disdain for stupidity that is essential in the character of the second eldest Bennett daughter. So much of Elizabeth's true feelings are portrayed, not through what she says, but her facial expressions and demeanor - a trait which Hoy manages to convey quite convincingly.

Other stand out performances include Annette Emerton as the overbearing Lady Catherine De Bourgh, although perhaps considered a smaller role, Emerton makes sure it's a memorable one, Ben Freeman as Mr Wickham is suave enough so that you can't help but like him and rogue enough to ensure that you really don't and Margaret Olive as Mrs Bennett, perhaps an even more difficult role to master than Mr Darcy, is humourous and loveable, if a little over the top at times. I am personally not a fan of put-on accents, whether they be American or British, I would rather hear an Australian accent than suffer through a bad one.

Pride & Prejudice, Luke Hale (Mr Bingley) and Madeleine Stanford (Jane Bennett)
Praise needs to be given to the set design and the way in which the scenes were effortlessly changed. Having the backstage team dressed as servants as they moved about changing over furniture was a brilliant choice. As with all conversions from books, there will always be elements that are overlooked. The important scene where Elizabeth meets Mr Darcy's sister Georgiana and is surprised to learn the high regard with which Darcy has spoken of her to his sister is payed little attention, where in the book it forms an important step in Elizabeth and Darcy's growing affection for one another, as does the moment when Elizabeth saves Georgiana from public scorn at the mention of Mr Wickham. However, I am being pedantic, like I said, I am an Austen fan from way back and this can often taint ones view of an adaptation. Despite my prejudice (pun completely intended) I enjoyed The Pavilion Theatre's rendition of this Austen classic and was impressed by the casts dynamic and skill.                
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