‘Pride and Prejudice’ was fun-loving.
Redcliffe Musical Theatre has transported audiences to the 19th Century with their light-hearted production of Helen Jerome’s comedic adaptation, ‘Pride and Prejudice’. An interesting rendition of Jane Austen’s classic novel, the story is set in a world where a woman’s only possible career was marriage.
The play follows, the Bennet sisters, Elizabeth, Jane and Lydia, as their eager mother tries to marry them off. This was a time where to be a wife was to be a success. However, the clever and outspoken Elizabeth does not go so easily. Set in a class-bound society, for a young woman to refuse marriage, not once, but twice as Elizabeth does to Mr Collins and Mr Darcy, was the most scandalous of affairs. However, as Elizabeth duels with her pride and prejudice, she comes to realise her true underlying feelings for the mysterious Mr Darcy.
Redcliffe Musical Theatre’s production – while energetic and charming – missed the opportunity to draw out the progressive side of the work and the themes and motifs within the script. Director, Madeleine Johns, has played on the comedy of the three-act play through impeccable comic timing of cast members and the use of hilarious melodrama. The characters were ridiculous, and the plot lent itself to this amusing take. However, moments of seriousness may have added to the overall comedic value by providing contrast and solidifying the understanding of the relevant themes of the piece.
Johns established a steady, flowing pace that was consistent throughout the piece. However, there were moments where dramatic tension could have been emphasised. Key plot points, such as Mr Darcy (Lachlan Muirhead) confessing his love for Elizabeth Bennet (Ashleigh Law) may have had more of a dramatic impact if the actor’s chemistry built over the course of the show. The tone of the play remained the same throughout. This could have been combatted if nuances were explored more within the text – leaning into the progressive and scandalous nature of the plot, which would have allowed tension to escalate towards the end of the play.
The set, designed by Jonathon Johns, was versatile and charming and worked to create three different settings required in the play. These versatile pieces were flipped and moved to take an audience to different locations. A quirky element to the production saw scene changes facilitated by the Butler (played by Terry Skinner) who replaced flowers in vases to indicate a new day. This transition was a fun way to show the passing of time and the repetitiveness of bringing flowers on and off stage added more humour to the piece. The technical aspects of the production, such as sound and lighting were also simple yet suitable.
At the dramatic centre of this play is Elizabeth, portrayed by Ashleigh Law. While Law captured Elizabeth’s sassy, sarcastic side, her interpretation of one of literature’s most iconic female characters lacked variation. Moments of softness would have added dimension to the role and it would have been nice to see Law loosen up physically, however, her stage presence and energy was evidently fun and cheeky.
Standout performances came from June Tretheway as Mrs Bennet and Leah Mustard as Lydia Bennet. Tretheway’s larger than life portrayal of the dramatic, difficult and hilarious matriarch, Mrs Bennet, was captivating and exceptionally good. She had the audience in the palm of her from the second she set foot on stage and delivered some of the most hilarious moments of the show. Mustard’s Lydia Bennet was bursting with energy and deliciously fun. The audience could not keep their eyes off her as she entered the stage every time with infectious vigour.
The rest of the cast delivered interesting performances, which were awarded many laughs from audience members. Unfortunately, inconsistent accents drew us out of the world, with some characters playing Australian and other portraying proper English. The cast could have also explored the expressive capacities of their bodies to present more grounded and authentic performances.
Redcliffe Musical Theatre’s rendition of Jane Austen’s classic novel is fun, energetic and charming. A deeper understanding of the nuances of the play and a variation in tone would have allowed it to have a greater impact with its audience to ultimately create a more colourful production.
‘Pride and Prejudice’ performs at Redcliffe Musical Theatre until Sunday, 16 June 2019. For tickets, visit http://www.redcliffemusicaltheatre.com/pride-and-prejudice.html