Tuesday, 1 November 2016

REVIEW: Pride and Prejudice at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Following sell-out performances at Regent's Park Theatre, Pride and Prejudice features the Olivier award-winning Matthew Kelly (Of Mice and Men) and Felicity Montagu (Alan Partridge, Bridget Jones's Diary, The Durrells) as Mr and Mrs Bennet. Kelly is a wonderful presence in this production and his comedic timing is spot on. Montagu is also superb – her “woe is me” Mrs Bennet was a crowd favourite, and she really binds the show together, with ease too I might add.

For Press Night, we were treated to understudy Jessica D’arcy in the role of Elizabeth Bennet who was thrown in at the deep end with just a few hours notice. She was absolutely marvellous. Her version of Elizabeth Bennet was well mannered, yet fiesty. I loved her portrayl of this classic role. She was outstanding.

Benjamin Dilloway is Mr Darcy. His exceptionally tall frame works well in this role, but his acting was a little too cold. I understand Darcy is supposed to be very distant as he falls for Elizabeth, but it was hard to believe she could ever fall for a man so stern and harsh. There was not even an exchange of smiles or a longing sigh before his proclamation of love to Elizabeth. Perhaps this is part of the text and how it was directed, but for a theatre stage, this connection needed romanticising more.

This show features a revolving stage. There is a spiral staircase and an extended balcony which ran along 50% of the edge of the revolve. This was integrated well into the show, and allowed for exceptional creativity including moments of surrealism one might not expect in a classic play like this. The choreography used around this set design was excellent. Simple touches like an entire family simultaneously unfolding a napkin around the dinner table added real class to the show.

While the novel of Pride and Prejudice is filled with charm and romance, this production doesn’t find that balance the way it should. The couples are un-believable, the intimacy is cold and the daughters look less like sisters who have grown up together, and more like a rabble of school children who have only know each other a short while.

The ensemble also features some dreadful cases of overacting, for example one performer insisted every word must be accompanied by a hand gesture, another believes an audiences’ laughter can only be earned through physical comedy, and one who simply couldn’t stop fidgeting with their costume. All immensely distracting...

I'll be sticking with the novel rather than revisiting this one. It's far more enjoyable in my own imagination. 

Review by Harriet Langdown 

Rating: ★★
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