Pride and Prejudice is acknowledged as one of the best books in English literature. Jane Austen’s characters come to life in the pages and their words are often at length, but witty and revealing, writes Rosemary J Westwell.
With her writing there is a constant underlying feeling that she is commenting on the strange idiosyncrasies, prejudices and injustices of her society. How can this be translated into a one-evening play? I thought it impossible and was expecting a play that simply told the story. How wrong I was!
It was not only the cleverly devised script by Simon Reade that brought Jane Austen’s words and plot alive, it was the splendid performances of the actors. Their personas were undeniable, their style of speaking, their gestures and the subtleties of facial expressions brought forth the emotions Jane’s work intended.
Jenny Surridge gave us the Elizabeth we had always imagined. Elizabeth’s intelligent mind was very much in evidence, as was her rebellious streak, and the affection she and her father had for each other – in spite of the nervy exuberance and ignorance of her mother, admirably played by Mary Barnes. Rowan Maulder was every bit the handsome, principled ‘dark horse’ we expected in Fitzwilliam Darcy, while David Tickner was indeed a long-suffering and wise Mr Bennet . James Palmer (as Charles Bingley) and Alison Palmer (as Jane Bennet) made the perfect couple, while the flighty Lydia (wonderfully portrayed by Kerry Hibbert) was teamed up well with the dashing Joshua Schumann as George Wickham. Tim Alban Jones, the current vicar of St Andrew’s, no doubt had his congregation a little concerned should he revert to character at a later date – for he played the most insufferable snob, Mr Collins, superbly. Kate Weekes was an excellent Charlotte Lucas – wife of Mr Collins, accepting her unorthodox marriage with disarming fortitude.
The array of superb actors does not stop there. Kirsten Martin as the acerbic Caroline Bingley developed a voice filled with guile and self importance that is not easy to forget. The snobbery of Lady Catherine de Bourgh (played by Janis Harrison) was never in any doubt while a host of other excellent performances added to this amazing entertainment: Zara Minns (Kitty Bennet), Laura Davis (Mary Bennet), David Moat (Sir William Lucas), Tracey Summers (Mrs. Gardiner), David Blythe (Mr Reynolds/Meryton Gentleman), Delia Tickner (Lady Lucas), Scott Robertson (Mr Denny/Imaginary Son), Lloyd Popp – Captain Carter, Leader of the Militia, Joe Turner (Mr Chamberlayne, Militia), Radha Cardwell (Mrs. Long), Maureen Hardingham (Mrs. Jenkinson) and Elisha Cardwell (Miss Long).
Staging was simple and effective, the music charming and authentic, the costumes delightful – in fact this whole production was fantastic. Congratulations must go to directors Sarah Dowd-Crosby and Emma Moat, musical director Tim Alban-Jones, dancing instructor Louise Plummer and their industrious crew and supporters.
The next show to look forward to is Acorn Antiques the Musical, on November 6 to 8 at the Brook, Soham.