Touring – reviewed at Birmingham Rep
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife! It also seemed to be acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice had landed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre this week, as a healthy house full of enthusiastic theatregoers packed the auditorium to see the popular period piece.
I studied the text for A level (which was more years ago than I will share with you) and that coincided with the broadcast of the television series which starred the Mr Darcy of so many dreams, Colin Firth. So, I’ve just blown the cover on how many years ago I sat my A Levels! The television series epitomised the text, for me, and the film which followed in the noughties which starred Brenda Blethyn and Keira Knightley didn’t light my candle. Equally, subsequent productions which I have endured have not come close to the bar set by the BBC One adaptation, however, what I witnessed last night was a stunning take on a classic story.
Using a revolve to enable the piece to move fluidly while scenes ‘changed’ was extremely effective, this may not have been the case had the cast commanded my attention. However, the simplicity of the structure used to create the various grand houses, coupled with the ever-changing backdrop which altered the mood beautifully, was remarkable.
Although the central love story of Darcy (Benjamin Dilloway) and Elizabeth Bennet (Tafline Steen) flourished and brought forth a good helping of “oohs”, “awwws” and “isn’t it lovely” from the audience, Mr and Mrs Bennet (Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu) stole the show for me, personally. They were ably backed up in their comedic ability by Mr Collins (Steven Meo), he was played with such comic precision that he drew my attention in most scenes that he appeared in. Matthew Kelly can speak volumes with his facial expressions alone, and therefore lent the right balance of dignified or indeed exasperated silence to Mr Bennet, together with quick-tongued quips, delivered to perfection. Felicity Montagu brought a myriad of emotions to Mrs Bennet, she wasn’t simply a flapping worry wart of activity, but there was careful consideration to the character’s nuances which played out beautifully. There was also a hint that all was not entirely romantically lost between Mr and Mrs Bennet, rather than blatant disrespect, through and through.
I thought that the dynamics of the five Bennet daughters was captured and balanced well, Mr Bingley (Jordan Mifsud) was also played in stark and genial contrast to Mr Darcy, which has always worked well in all of the productions I have seen. Mary (Leigh Quinn) and Lydia (Mari Izzard) were portrayed excellently, with Mary providing many laugh out loud moments and Lydia’s exuberance was all consuming when her storyline was at the heart of the piece.
If you are an Austen fan and familiar with the text, you’ll not be disappointed. If you’ve never encountered this classic before, this production provides a fine introduction.