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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: adapted by Sara Pascoe.

Nottingham Playhouse.
Runs: 2h 55m: one interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 19th September 2017.

A confused and messy affair with some nice moments.

Sara Pascoe’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is the Jane Austen classic right enough, but if you’re expecting a straightforward presentation of the novel you might be disappointed.

The main story-line is left intact, but it’s pared down to the key episodes – the whole thing is over-episodic – so that, for instance, the full comic loathsomeness of Mr Collins’ marriage proposal and Elizabeth’s glorious refusal are both lost. And near the end we don’t get to see the heroine’s sensational put-down of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, one of the highpoints of the book.

Instead Pascoe inserts incongruous intrusions from outside the main action with people discussing story, setting, characters and themes from a contemporary perspective. Some actors and the director argue about it; a class of two schoolgirls grill their teacher about it….We’re even treated to a couple of patronising mini-lectures about it.

Better by far if, as adults, we’d been trusted to draw our own conclusions about the play/novel.

It’s another false move to fill out the ball scenes with life-sized dummies on wheels; a routine device in your six-hander knockabout outdoor touring production, but it seems out of kilter here.

Worst of all, the action is often stopped dead in its tracks so that Austen’s characters can sing modern, sometimes bawdy songs that sit awkwardly on the proceedings. That said, composer Emmy the Great’s original period-sounding background music is exquisite.

Kerry Peers (Mrs Bennet – she also plays a splendid Lady Catherine) and Adrian Irvine (Mr Bennet) both provide fine comedy; as well as moments of pathos like the one during a dance when they reminisce about their early, sexually charged, love for each other. But it’s made clear in the play, as in the original, that theirs is a ruinous marriage.

Bethan Mary-James’s Elizabeth is effective, save for occasional inadequate articulation and projection; and so is Matt Whitchurch’s Mr Darcy. Matthew Romain is excellent, both as the comically odious Mr Collins and Mr Bingley.

Judging from the frequent laughter and the final applause, the packed press-night audience loved the evening. Nevertheless, this is a messy venture that appears not to have made up its mind what it’s trying to do.

This is a joint Nottingham Playhouse/York Theatre Royal production.

Jane: Rebecca D’Souza.
Kitty: Alice Haig.
Mr Bennet: Adrian Irvine.
Elizabeth: Bethan Mary-James.
Lydia: Olivia Onyehara.
Mary: Rachel Partington.
Mrs Bennet: Kerry Peers.
Mr Bingley: Matthew Romain.
Mr Wickham: Alex Sawyer.
Mr Darcy: Matt Whitchurch.

All other parts played by members of the cast.

Director: Susannah Tresilian.
Designer: Carla Goodman.
Lighting Designer: Mark Howland.
Composer: Emmy the Great.
Sound Designer: Drew Baumohl.
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