JERMYN STREET THEATRE.
This sparkling adaptation is a hugely engaging romp through Jane Austen’s greatest love story.
While the TV version of Pride and Prejudice (can it really be over 20 years old?) luxuriated in six hour-long episodes to unfold the complex story, this stage play from Two Bit Classics has barely two.
But the thoroughly entertaining, pacy adaptation by actor Joannah Tincey gets round the problem by sticking solely to Jane Austen’s own words, skilfully filleting the narrative to take us on a fast-track dash though one of the most popular and enduring of all novels.
And why stick to casting yourself as either Lizzie, Mrs Bennet, Lydia or Mr Bingley, when you could enjoy playing them all? Tincey takes on half the 21-strong head count, creating a warm, intelligent Elizabeth Bennet and channelling her inner Alison Steadman (a compliment) for Mrs Bennet, with the remaining characters – including Mr Darcy – played by Nick Underwood. The duo create an entirely engaging account with enough faithful detail to satisfy P&P’s fans, while keeping the plot and characterisations crystal clear throughout.
Nick Underwood as unctuous, boastful Mr Collins is a highlight of the production, and his Mr Darcy is suitably suave and arrogant. He also takes on the tittering, militia-mad Kitty whose irritating cough becomes her own distinguishing feature when Underwood is switching roles at speed.
Dora Schweitzer’s set and costumes are a triumph, combining period swagger with the deft simplicity that allows lighting costume changes – most notably the single button that transforms Mrs Bennet to Mr Bingley and back again. Schweitzer has also highlighted each character with a single prop that helps to identify them – a hankie for Mrs Bennet, a pipe for her husband, and so on – though with the performers’ level of skill this is really just extra garnish.
Director Abigail Anderson makes the most of the theatrical intimacy which allows the cast to address the audience directly, creating an instant rapport and highlighting the wit and elegance of Austen’s prose.
This is the third revival of the production, which has played before in 2013 and 2014. It’s a tour de force from Tincey and Underwood as performers, and with Anderson’s pacy direction, this is a Pride and Prejudice to relish whether you’re a die-hard Austen fan or a newbie to the whole Lizzie and Darcy dynamic.
Either way, it’s a theatrical treat.
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, adapted by Joannah Tincey
Jermyn Street Theatre, until Wednesday, 21 December
Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm. Saturday/Sunday matinees 3.30pm
Additional Matinees Thursday 8th & 15th December 3.30pm