first night

Pride and Prejudice

Rebecca Flynn views a classic 200 years in the making.

The 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is being celebrated in the national papers, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube, and there is even a set of stamps to mark the occasion. Popularised by the 2005 film and the 1995 BBC series, this novel holds a unique place in modern culture. Castle Theatre Company faced a mammoth challenge in trying to separate their production from this cultural heritage.

The most elemental part of any production is to get the casting of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet right. Colin Firth’s portrayal has become somewhat of cultural monument, whilst the choice to cast Kiera Knightly has often been scoffed at by women nationwide. Mr Darcy (Adam Phillips) exuded pride in his aloofness and stature. Meanwhile, Heather Cave’s Elizabeth Bennet at times seemed to lack the sharp wit the character is famed for. Unfortunately, the essential chemistry between the two was also often lacking.

In contrast, Mr Bingley (Callum Kenny) and Jane (Cecily Money-Coutts) interacted well together and Money-Coutts’s resemblance to Rosamund Pike was uncanny! Mrs Bennet (Ellie Gauge) was overdramatic, which worked, but Hugh Train needs to be careful that Gauge does not eclipse his Mr Bennet, and this could have been achieved by strengthening the sense of his preference for Lizzie. Both Gauge and Train needed to be more animate when the audience were taking their seats, as it made for an awkward beginning.

Philipa Moseley’s Lydia sparkled throughout, particularly in her flirting with Mr Wickham (Dom Williams), though I do wish Williams had himself been more rakish. Mr Collins and Lady Catherine De Bourg were both comic: Nick McQueen in his mannerisms - particularly in going down on one knee - and Georgina Franklin in her haughty disdain. Georgia Cassarino also stood out, and her Miss Bingley was perfectly pitched.

On the whole, the cast interacted well together and I particularly liked the ensemble ball scenes. However, Lizzie really needed to be raised when surveying the raucous party and this presents a general problem with the staging. The lack of height meant that any person sitting further than a few rows back missed quite a lot of the action, particularly the domestic scenes. However, Castle’s Great Hall was a beautiful setting, and allowed Dave Collins’ wonderfully composed and directed music to soar.

I found the end scene disappointing because of it cheesiness and forced resolution and it seemed like an unnecessary addition. David Kerby-Kendall’s script in general is problematic as it worked well in comical moments but often led to sudden jumps in place and time and some discordant modernisations. However, despite these little reservations, the director, Leo Mylonadis, has created a great celebration of many people’s favourite novel.  

25 February 2013

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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