Pride & Prejudice
Jermyn Street Theatre (UK Tour)
With a bit of doubling up, a cast of 20 performs Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in the Regents Park Open Air Theatre production currently touring the UK. In Joannah Tincey's adaptation at Jermyn Street Theatre, there is a cast of just two but that is no impediment to bringing the much-loved story to life.
Between them, Joannah herself and co-star Nick Underwood bring 21 of the novel's characters to the stage. The smallness of the cast is by no means a limitation but a virtue. It provides an intimacy that suits the story of the Bennet sisters' pursuit of love, including the roller coaster courtship of Lizzy and Mr Darcy, in drawing rooms, assembly rooms and gardens. Using only Austen's own words, Tincey's adaptation accentuates the nuances of the novel's sharp humour, with added delight from the performers' ever-changing parts.
The two actors deftly use their voices, bodies and well-chosen props to switch between characters. Clutching a handkerchief, Tincey becomes the frantic match-making Mrs Bennet before switching to the self-assured Lizzy, the precocious Lydia Bennet and the self-deprecating Charlotte Lucas. Underwood – who bears a passing resemblance to a young Colin Firth – is equally impressive switching from the long-suffering Mr Bennet to the pompous Mr Collins, suave Mr Wickham, and Darcy whose diffidence and social unease often raise a laugh.
They add an extra dimension with some cross-gender casting, such as Tincey playing not only the refined Caroline Bingley but also her brother, Mr Bingley. This leaves Underwood to play Bingley's love interest, Jane Bennet, as well as other female characters including the hilariously skittish young Kitty Bennet.
Directed by Abigail Anderson, the show keeps up the pace throughout, pulling us along to the inevitable happy endings. The abstract set of furniture and domestic features, designed by Dora Schweitzer, allows the imagination to conjure up the gardens of Pemberley, the assembly room of Meryton or the Bennet family home, enhanced by sound by Mark Melville and lighting by Simon Wilkinson.
This is an accomplished show, capturing the spirit and social comedy of Austen with added humour from the multiple casting. It has come to the Jermyn Street Theatre at the end of a successful UK tour – its third after previous tours in 2013 and 2014 – and continues to delight and entertain.
Running to December 21, 2016