July 17- August 30
Pride And Prejudice
Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre
Reviewed for Writebase: https://writebase.co.uk/
It is a truth universally acknowledged – that you absolutely do not need to open with such a well known quote, or variations thereof, even if it establishes that most people know what you are talking about, and a plot summary is not required. Nor that such a familiar tale couldn’t prove damn’d tricky to be given enough of a spin to sprinkle it with stardust and make it fresh and original. It succeeds wonderfully.
And who knew Jane Austen was so keen on gardening, for it was grass and flower beds which comprised the delightfully designed setting, with change of scenes clearly announced, for example, the splendour that was ballrooms, not to mention Pemberley. Miss Austen’s humour by contrast is widely appreciated, and beautifully executed here, with some neat in jokes, even from Hoylake.
But this is, as ever, you will be relieved to know, theatre at its best, and as it happens, could say the weather also at its best although far too hot for some. Make that many; no joke trying to enjoy something when the heat is literally melting your make-up. Spare a thought then for the cast, not just Regency clad, their cunning costume incorporated dresses on top of breeches and boots to enable the young ladies to double up as soldiers. And there was a fair bit of dancing, along with music and songs as enhancement.
No wonder Howard Chadwick was so spectacularly grumpy as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, where the reverse applied: frock over his attire as Mr Bennett. OK, the result was Pantomime Dame, but par excellence: what a splendid job. It also made a pleasant change to have Victoria Brazier as a Mrs Bennett who provides much of the humour with her artless, tactless comments, rather than quite as ridiculous as she is often portrayed which not surprisingly provokes his contempt; this time, their bickering appears by and large affectionate. Foolishness is certainly on display courtesy of headstrong Lydia, as shown off by Jenny Murphy, and to a much lesser extent, an amusingly shrill Kitty Rosie Jowett having a hissy fit , whilst Mia Nelson, the bespectacled Mary, has little to say but much to read, wandering around, book in hand. Likewise, minute bit parts too for her Anne de Bourgh, and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana (Jenny Murphy). Darren Kuppan and Jessica Dives play the admirable Bingley and Jane, whose somewhat subdued sub plot romance is overshadowed by that of hero and heroine. By way of contrast, and excuse the oxymoron, there’s a pleasingly tart contribution from Parvi Parmar as the haughty Caroline Bingley who can snap a fan like it’s going out of fashion.
So we come to the ever popular Lizzie, and Suzanne Ahmet is as vivacious, fascinating and sagacious as you could wish, even if she is also taken in by the villain of the piece, Darren Kuppan again as dashing, dastardly Wickham. In fact, you almost have your doubts about her alliance with such a sombre stick as Darcy. But fair enough, the stiffness does dissolve satisfyingly once he is finally happy with his conquest. Perry Moore seemed nonetheless far more effective as the oleaginous Mr Collins (mellifluous word for a rather malevolent description), flouncing, frowning and fawning for all he’s worth, and in fact, I didn’t recognise him… It’s also very clear wthat a sacrifice the unfortunate yet doughty and pragamatic Charlotte Lucas( Parvi Parmar) has had to make.
Ah, but after all, such joy on being allowed out to plays at long last. What better place to enjoy them?