Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen, adapted and directed by Abigail Pickard Price
Guildford Shakespeare Company
Holy Trinity Church, Guildford High Street

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Sarah Gobran, Luke Barton, April Hughes Credit: Mark Dean
Luke Barton and April Hughes Credit: Mark Dean

My first thoughts, before seeing this production, were what a tremendous task the company had set themselves intending to perform most of the very many characters in Jane Austen’s novel with only three players. It must have taken many hours of rehearsals, probably often with uncontrollable laughter, as they perfected the constant split-second changes of costumes, demeanour and expressions. Through it all, the humour and wit of the novel is firmly in place, but the deeper feelings of the characters are certainly not ignored.

The play closely follows the book, beginning in the household of the Bennet family with Sarah Gobran’s Mrs. Bennet bemoaning the fact that they have five daughters who must somehow find suitable husbands, and, having heard that what appears to be a very suitable suitor has recently moved into the neighbourhood—what is Mr Bennet going to do about it?

Luke Barton’s Mr. Bennet, trying to read his book, responds with slightly sarcastic, humorous comments, which annoys his wife, and appears to have no intention of stirring himself in that direction. Seems a typical married couple at breakfast, and very funny to observe, but in Mrs. Bennet’s mind is a very real concern for her girls and what will become of them if they cannot find husbands.

Gobran also copes with Jane Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, a sympathetic Mrs. Gardiner and a haughty and unpleasant Caroline Bingley, switching expertly to and fro between them, while Barton has the famous / infamous Mr. Darcy, the rakish Mr. Wickham, the fatuous, foolish clergyman Mr. Collins and even the former housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds and a regally superior Lady Catherine de Burgh.

The third and very important member of the cast, April Hughes, has the key role of Lizzy (as well as Mr. Bingley), with the main emphasis of the story being the interaction between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy and the pride and prejudice, which causes them to distrust each other in spite of their obvious attraction.

This expert cast are amazing, coping with dialogue, lightning changes of character and costume and also managing with the same expertise and speed, to rearrange Neil Irish’s set between every scene, even moving heavy furniture, with not the least hold-up to the flow of the story.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening with plenty of laughter and also plenty to think a little more deeply about concerning the characters, the time in which they were living and their interaction with each other.

Two particular scenes come to mind: an inept Collins proposing to Lizzy while Mrs. Bennet listens behind the door, a wide smile on her face until she hears Lizzie’s refusal; also Barton sweeping a cloak around himself as, with wicked and superb timing, he becomes his next character.

Overall performances are superb, and excellent cast, but my loudest applause was for director Abigail Pickard Price (ably assisted, no doubt, by movement director Amy Lawrence) and the exquisitely precise, yet subtle timing for every movement on stage. Perfection!

Reviewer: Sheila Connor

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