Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a story we’ve all heard. Whether it be in a GCSE English class, or through the lens of Keira Knightley and Colin Firth. Regent’s Park theatre brought to life this classic tale of the era splendidly. However, I have reached the conclusion that once you have seen one Pride and Prejudice you have seen them all.
Max Jones’s set was simple excellence. An era-appropriate set of stairs attached to a corridor was placed on the rotating stage which allowed for a quick change of scene. However, this was the only exceptional element of the performance.
Let’s talk about casting. Never before have I seen a period play with such a brilliantly diverse cast. Nevertheless, the characters themselves to me were one-dimensional. Not quite fully developed, they played caricatures, merely adopting an attitude towards marriage and allowing this to be their sole influence for their decisions on stage. The fact that it was opening night may have been a factor here, but at moments I could practically hear the director Deborah Bruce yelling, ‘gasp here’ or ‘sound shocked’. The majority of the lines, particularly from the daughters just didn’t seem natural. Felicity Montagu and Matthew Kelley as Mrs and Mr Bennet stole the show. Their humour and energy was intrinsic to my enjoyment of the piece.
The play began slightly rusty and jilted, possibly due to it being opening night. Yet, the second half was much more polished and quite pleasing. Regent’s Park theatre brought to life the words of Austen exactly how one would imagine, and that is the problem. Pride and Prejudice has been done endlessly, and has become predictable. While this performance was accurate and timely, it did not shock, surprise or enthral my imagination. It was the perfect period play.