Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen, adapted by Laura Turner
Chapterhouse Theatre Company
Customs House, South Shields, and touring
(2011)

Pride and Prejudice publicity photo

When you sit down to write a review and the first phrase that comes into your mind is “Oh, dear!”, you know that you are going to be in for a hard time.

Whilst I have no doubt that the hearts of all those involved in Chapterhouse Theatre Company’s production of Pride and Prejudice were in the right place, I must say that they were the only things correctly placed in this lacklustre and disjointed offering.

There is no doubt that the appetite for period costume drama is voracious at present – you need look no further than the Sunday evening television schedules to be convinced of that – and with productions including Cranford and Lady Chatterley’s Lover doing the touring circuit it would suggest that this trend has infiltrated the theatre world, too.

However, to compete or even stand up to comparison with the sumptuous small screen offerings presently available, the production values need to be considerably higher than they are in this dreary drama. Indeed, every expense has been spared, every corner cut in this Regency rip-off. The ‘classical Empire line dresses’, worn by the Bennett sisters, looked more like naff nylon nighties obtained at rock-bottom rates from the local catalogue clearance outlet and it was left to the ‘school project’ sketches in the programme to distinguish morning dress from evening attire, as each character only seemed to have been allocated one costume throughout.

It also seems apparent that the costumes, designed by Georgina Nurse (and, despite the name, she wasn’t able to make them look well), were made with the possibility that cast members may change during the course of the tour. The consequence of this one-size-fits-all approach is that some gowns simply hang on the actress, whereas others appear ridiculously short.

I admit, it may not be an easy task to adapt a Jane Austen novel and abridge it to a two hour stage play but, nevertheless, that is no excuse for the significant and unforgivable compromises that are made at each and every stage of this dreck production. To illustrate my point, Laura Turner has even dispensed with one of Mrs Bennet’s five daughters, Kitty. Though, in her defence, if she was to have been played as irritatingly as the other four then perhaps I, too, may have been tempted to start bumping them off one at a time!

You may have noticed that, so far, this review has not named any of the actors who appear in this production. You may consider this an act of kindness on my part, as I do not wish to impede their future employment prospects within the acting profession.

This production is lacking in each and every aspect and it limps its way through a long two hours. Suffice to say that I have seen donkeys on Blackpool beach plodding faster and more interestingly.

Reviewer: Steve Burbridge