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Pride & Prejudice at Holy Trinity Church, Guildford | Review

Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice has been adapted for this production by director Abigail Pickard Price. Adapting a book that is a ‘National Treasure’, that most people have read (or perhaps just seen on film or the telly) possibly thought of as being rather brave, particularly as this production uses just three actors to portray 16 characters! So, does it work? Overall, yes it does! It takes some serious editing to reduce a book of more than 300 pages to a stage play just over 2 hours long and inevitably a lot of the backstory is lost, but Abigail has retained a lot of Austen’s carefully chosen words and retained the Regency style of speech and manners.

GSC Pride & Prejudice (actors Luke Barton, April Highes) Photo. Mark Dean.
GSC Pride & Prejudice (actors Luke Barton, April Highes) Photo. Mark Dean.

The cast; Luke Barton, Sarah Gobran and April Hughes, are excellent in their many roles. Sarah and April give masterful performances in their main roles of the silly Mrs. Bennet and witty, intelligent Lizzy Bennet, respectively. Luke Barton switches with ease from indolent Mr Bennet to proud Mr Darcy, his awkward silences being especially memorable! Neil Irish’s costume design is very clever, the quick costume changes are ingenious and sometimes hilarious. Actors whizz from role to role with different coloured ribbons, hats and sashes making it clear which Bennet girl is speaking. Other costume changes are more complicated, particularly the transformation of tall, handsome actor Luke Barton into overbearing Lady Catherine de Burgh. This transformation was, without a doubt, one of my favourite parts of the production.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production; although I would not classify myself as an Austen devotee, I have read the book (many years ago) and have seen many of the recent small-screen interpretations. The story has been stripped down and runs at a fast pace, which may be rather confusing to people not familiar with the book. I overheard one audience member asking his companion “Why did Darcy try to split Jane and Mr Bingley up?” and various other follow-up questions as they left the venue. Maybe it would be less confusing if one or two extra performers could have been squeezed onto the stage (so long as one of them wasn’t playing Lady Catherine) or perhaps the story could have been clearer if the two less important Bennet sisters had been left out? I know that would risk the fury of Austen devotees. In all, I think this was a very successful production but if you are not that familiar with the story, read a synopsis before you go, or buy a programme and read the one in there!

4 stars

Review by Sally Knipe

When a host of eligible bachelors descend on the small community of Meryton, hearts are set racing and the tranquil world of the Bennett family is sent into a whirlwind of passions and possibilities. Central to all this excitement is one of the most famous love-stories of all time: the compelling will-they-won’t-they romance of the irrepressible Lizzie Bennet and enigmatic Mr Darcy.

Written by Jane Austen
Adapted & Directed by Abigail Pickard Price
Set & Costume by Neil Irish & Anett Black
Lighting Design Mark Dymock
Sound Design Matt Eaton
Movement Direction Amy Lawrence

5 – 24 FEBRUARY 2024
Holy Trinity Church, High Street, Guildford
https://www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk/

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