Pride and Prejudice***+ (Jermyn Street Theatre)

Posted: December 4, 2016 in Theatre

pride-and-prejudice-nick-underwood-and-joannah-tincey-courtesy-of-carrie-johnson_2This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that very little time will ever elapse between someone coming up with a new take on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice. Detailing the courting rituals of the well-to-do and the aspirers in an England as yet untouched by the Industrial Revolution, Austen created a timeless classic and chiselled out a template for romantic comedy that is still being put to new uses more than two centuries on.

The twist in Joannah Tincey’s adaptation is that the novel is interpreted to be performed by just two actors – Tincey herself and Nick Underwood, who is not hampered by bearing a passing resemblance to Colin Firth. Dora Schweitzer’s set, warmly lit by Simon Wilkinson, has impressions in light wood of a window frame, fireplace and beams, suggesting a welcoming rustic residence. This is a show that would fit into a large living room and delight the extended family at Christmas.

More an acted-out reading direct from the novel than a full dramatisation, Abigail Anderson’s sprightly production sees Tincey and Underwood cast perfectly as the headstrong Elizabeth Bennet and the haughty Mr Darcy. Scenes between these two main characters are realised impeccably. The pair then keeps us on our toes,switching between characters of either gender at the blink of an eye. They become the languid Mr Bennet and his social climbing wife, Elizabeth’s four twittering sisters, the amiable Bingley, the dastardly Wickham, the stern Lady Catherine (each taking a turn to play her) and so on.

Familiarity with the story works both for and against this adaptation. It results in character recognition being much easier when the actors make their quick switches, having few props to help them, but, when the production hits a stodgy patch, the mind is tempted to wander in the safe knowledge that the threads can be picked up later. Austen’s sub-plots come across less successfully in this version than the main Elizabeth/Darcy storyline and, running at over 150 minutes (including interval), the production could well benefit from a little trimming.

There is nothing ground-breaking on display here, but, as a showcase for versatile acting talents and for the wit and perception of Austen, there is not much that can go wrong and this warm, cosy production fits comfortably into its Jermyn Street home.

Performance date: 1 December 2016

Photos: Carrie Johnson


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