Jane Austen classic is something to be proud of - The Leamington Observer

Jane Austen classic is something to be proud of

Leamington Editorial 27th Jun, 2023 Updated: 27th Jun, 2023   0

THE FAMILIAR and comforting world of the nation’s frequent choice of favourite author arrives, via a landmark piece of television drama, on the stage of the Talisman.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s perennial favourite, makes its stately way onto the stage complete with enough style and detail to ensure its popularity will not wane for having been re-shaped afresh.

This production, under the attentive eye of director Corrina Jacob, races along at a commendable pace, an achievement in itself considering the number of scenes involved and the number of characters called for.

Slick staging on Jeevan Nangla’s open set helps keep things moving. The dancing is often played as underscoring to the dialogue and the projection of a range of sumptuous properties reminds us where we are.

There are some excellent performances, indeed nothing really jars in such a large cast and all can be proud of what they contribute.

Gwen Davis brings a wonderful lightness to Elizabeth Bennet, self-deprecating and, at the same time, resolute. Chris Bird captures the aloofness of Darcy but doesn’t neglect the slight doubts that drive his character toward the conclusion.

Mr and Mrs Bennet (Graham and Kathy Buckingham-Underhill) feast on some of the fine one-liners the original offers and which the re-shaping has judiciously kept en masse.

Condensing the panoramic landscape of the novel into a TV serial was a task in itself – and one which earned its writer Andrew Davies praise and plaudits in equal measure. To boil it down even further to a two-hour play requires even greater skill from the same writer.

A brave decision has been made here not to leave anything out but simply to pare down each moment to its absolute minimum. It’s a decision which, for the most part, pays off. It means we get the full story but what is occasionally missing is the depth of character and witty sparring for which Austen remains the nonpareil. Some things simply happen too fast and the sense of careering speed is almost out of control for the final realisation of love.

This is very much an adaptation of the screenplay rather than a theatrical exploration of the novel, but it is all the more a celebration for that. Those who enjoyed the small screen version (or even those who read the book) will love the detail and quality, from opulent dresses to swim-soaked shirt.

The Talisman has worked hard to secure this world premiere production and has not wasted the chance. Fast-moving, expertly balanced and – above all – genuinely funny, this is a terrific show.

Details of all Talisman productions can be found at talismantheatre.co.uk

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