Tuesday, 21 January 2014

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE - GATE THEATRE - REVIEW

Sam O'Mahony as Darcy & Lorna Quinn as Lizzie
My husband brought me to Pride and Prejudice at The Gate for my birthday at the weekend. There can hardly be an adult reader who has not read P&P, Jane Austen's novel of the Bennett sisters, afflicted with loving but foolish parents, who let them down in various ways. This was The Gate's Christmas offering but it has been breaking box office records and continues it's run (with limited availability) until the 8th of February.

I may have set myself up badly for the show by rewatching the BBC mini-series that featured Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie - surely the most sublime Lizzie ever. I am also reading Jo Baker's most enjoyable Longbourn, which tells the story of P&P from the point of view of Mrs Hill and the other Bennett servants. (I'm very interested in it having just finished writing a domestic service novel set in the 19th C - ooh, Jo Baker writes well!) Anyway, with heads full of Ehle's Lizzie, we took ourselves to The Gate and what we saw was very enjoyable, with a few minor quibbles. One of those being dropped accents - surely at this stage of the run the actors should have their English accents down pat?
The Bennett girls, hungry for husbands
Lorna Quinn was a vivacious Lizzie and acted as narrator at times to speed along what was already a full-throttle production. P&P is a long novel and it is always difficult to present it as a play without galloping through the plot. One of the ways they did this was to dispense with some characters - there was just one Miss Bingley, for example,which handily got rid of the other sister and her drunken husband. Rebecca O'Mara stole the show as Caroline Bingley with her spot-on fusion of grace and bitchiness in a polished, perfect accent.

Rebecca O'Mara - excellent as Miss Bingley and Aoibhín Garrihy - a warm and lovely Jane Bennett
Stephen Brennan played Mr Bennett in the way he should be played, with humour and tenderness (when is Brennan ever below par?) and Eleanor Methven as Mrs Bennett was also as silly and hysterical as she should be without flowing over into pantomime. Mark O'Regan was very good as the repulsive Bennett cousin, clergyman Mr Collins - he stuttered and simpered beautifully. The other Bennett sisters filled their roles well: studious Mary, flighty Lydia, whingy Kitty. It was Aoibhín Garrihy who stood out here with her perfectly serene and likeable Jane.

Stephen Swift made a sweet and amiable Mr Bingley and Sam O'Mahony certainly looked the part as Darcy (he is tall, dark and handsome enough for him), but he hadn't enough to do and I didn't see any real warmth grow between him and Lizzie - that may have been due to the rushed nature of everything. But they might have danced more, for example.

Barbara Brennan, another consummate actress, was suitably present and imposing as Lady Catherine de Bourgh but I do think director Alan Stanford might have resisted giving her repeated lines for comedy. As a character, de Bourgh is a frightening prospect with her outrageous snobbery and self-righteousness. I would have preferred if she was left to be as hideous as she is - in a serious way - rather than mine her for laughs.
A rather crappy phone pic I took of the set
Bruno Scwengl's set is beautiful if a little static. I liked that the set-movers were in period costume and gave the impression of being the servants of the house.

All in all a very enjoyable production and, if the audience on Friday night are anything to go by, it is going down very well with Austen fans in Dublin.

Pride and Prejudice runs at The Gate until the 8th February. This week is sold out, but it is always worth a try for returns. And there are tickets available for the following weeks.

4 comments:

Swaywords said...

Thanks for this review, Nuala. I know a couple of huge Pride and Prejudice fans who will be very interested in this. Jennifer Ehle...oh, yes!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Thanks, Alan. Yes, Jennifer E had such an expressive face and she was able to bring across the intelligence that is such a necessary part of Lizzie.

Aoife.Troxel said...

I also went to see the play for my birthday! I didn't enjoy it quite as much though, as I felt the changes to the script weren't consistent with what could be inferred from the novel.
I have watched a lot of Pride and Prejudice adaptations and I think it is hard to get right even when sticking to the original. But Hank Green and Bernie Su's Lizzie Bennet Diaries will remain the best modern adaptation to my mind. I thought the use of transmedia revolutionised storytelling in the digital age.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

I saw a previous P&P at The Gate and this one was defo better, Aoife, though there was no spark between Lizzie n Darcy. Which is a shame . I need to read the LB Diaries, I keep reading about it. Thanks for commenting!