I have seen several adaptations of famous films as of late. The most frustrating thing about seeing a theatrical retelling of a reasonably well known piece of culture which has associations is the replication of these without a care for their production value. Thankfully, Deborah Bruce’s production does away with the topless Colin Firth’s emerging from lakes in this adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous novel.
Originally from the Regents Park Open Air Theatre, the performance was charmingly funny at times – especially when Felicity Montagu and Matthew Kelly had their chance to shine as Mrs and Mr Bennet respectively – but also bordered on the dull as it meandered through its plot. Its revolving set allowed simultaneous action but this could have been made use of more to keep the pace up.
Tafline Steen was strong as Elizabeth Bennet, and proved the most interesting of her sisters. She spoke her words with a contemporary feel that helped to lift the drops in general feel. She brought a vibrancy and depth from her character that often felt amiss.
Her Mr Darcy was Benjamin Dilloway. He had a rather awkward first act – arguably intentional given the pairs delicate relationship at that point in the play, but he felt awkward not just with Steen’s character, but on stage in general. His second half performance though was more confident and he managed to sit more comfortably on stage.
Some charming humour and a couple of strong performances make this watchable, especially for fans of period works. But the staggeringly slow pace and a plethora of underdeveloped ensemble parts are hoops it just cannot jump through.
- Adapted: Simon Reade, of Jane Austen’s novel
- Director: Deborah Bruce
- Cast includes: Taflin Steen, Benjamin Dilloway, Felicity Montagu, Matthew Kelly
- Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
- Until 12th November 2016
- Review by Harry Tennison
- 8 November 2016