INTERVIEW: Screenwriter Andrew Davies brings Pride and Prejudice to the Kenilworth stage - The Leamington Observer

INTERVIEW: Screenwriter Andrew Davies brings Pride and Prejudice to the Kenilworth stage

Leamington Editorial 11th Jun, 2023   0

THE TALISMAN Theatre in Kenilworth has scored quite the coup.

It is about to put on the worldwide premiere of a stage production of Pride and Prejudice penned by none other than award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies, famous for such classic TV adaptations as Bleak House, Middlemarch, War and Peace and – Pride and Prejudice.

Observer reporter Philippa Mingins caught up with Andrew as he took time out from attending rehearsals to discuss how he took on the challenge of adapting the book for the stage, getting to know everyone at the Talisman better and his penchant for wet shirts over the stuffed kind.

 




The renowned BBC TV series of Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Andrew from Jane Austen’s much-loved novel, aired in 1995. The TV series was broadcast in six-parts, each an hour long, and garnered much interest not only for tearing up the rule book on costume drama but for an unforgettable portrayal of heart–throb hero Mr Darcy by Colin Firth.

But it wasn’t actually Andrew’s idea to bring Austen’s novel to the stage almost 30 years on.


Andrew explained: “It actually came about because Nigel Elliot the Chairman of the Talisman asked me if I knew any good stage adaptations and I couldn’t think of any but I suggested why didn’t I write one?”

Andrew is not only a Kenilworth resident but has been a patron of the Talisman Theatre for a number of years. He said working on this play was the ideal way to get to know everyone at the theatre just that bit better but cutting the TV adaptation down was not easy to do.

He said: “I found it was a very good way of getting involved with the cast and with the technical crew. The best way of forming relationships is working with someone.

“I enjoyed cutting it down but I must admit it was a struggle. The TV version was six hours and the stage version is two.”

Andrew said he referred back to both the book and the TV adaptation when writing the stage version but when it came to writing the script for the play the greatest change was the emphasis on character and dialogue.

He said: “Everything has to be more concentrated. There is a lot of physicality and movement. There is dancing and quite a lot of playfulness, and high spirits.

“The last thing I wanted was a lot of stuffed shirts.

“There is also more of an emphasis on comedy – far more so than in the TV version. The romance was very much at the centre of that.”

And Andrew was able to confirm that despite the impracticalities of recreating a lake on stage, there would be a wet shirt scene as infamously occurred in the TV series.

He said: “We are going to have one. There won’t be a lake on stage but we will see the aftermath, yes. I think people would be disappointed as they would be expecting that.”

And Andrew does hope that if successful, the play could be rolled out to theatres across the country and be taken up by a professional company.

He elaborated: “The aim of this production is to fine tune it really and I do hope that someone will be interested in putting it on.”

The play has seen Andrew collaborating with Stephen Duckham, Talisman Theatre’s joint artistic director, as well as the play’s director Corrina Jacob, along with a talented company assembled for the production, including Gwen Davis as Elizabeth Bennet, Joanna Ryan McGough as Jane Bennet, Emily Carleton as Mary Bennet, and Chris Bird as Mr Darcy.

If ticket sales for this production, which runs for a week from Monday June 26 to Saturday July 1 are anything to go by, Pride and Prejudice could prove a theatre filler. Tickets have completely sold out.

Andrew will be going to see the production himself – more than once.

He said: “I will be seeing the production three times in total. I have slight nerves in terms of getting across what I hope to get across. I hope they like it and I hope they will laugh.

“The sales of tickets has gone very well. The people in my street are certainly going.”

 

 

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