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“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”  Reviewed by:  Richard Lovelock


I must admit to a little apprehension about seeing this new adaptation by Simon Reade of Jane Austin’s classic Pride and Prejudice, a book she carefully crafted over 200 hundred years ago.


The classic village picture of the cricket on the green outside the Boxmoor Playhouse the afternoon I saw this production helped to set the scene for a pleasant meander around Hertfordshire in 1814 thanks to Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company’s rendition of this classic story.


Period pieces can at times drag as societies wrestle with concepts of a bye gone age and a style of language much different to current day. Director Mariam Gaballa-Gill ensured this didn’t happen and kept the audience’s interest throughout. Scene changes were expedited to keep the flow continuously moving as far as possible. There were a couple of times where we had overlong silences as we waited for a quick costume change to take place and a few bars of music may have been appropriate, but generally the pace was maintained throughout.   


The red regency interior feel of the Boxmoor Playhouse lends itself well to the piece. With such an array of different scenes to portray, Mariam used the full extent of the width and depth of the stage plus the auditorium floor to give us a variety of different houses, ballrooms and outside locations which, combined with a clever use of lighting, worked well.


Using a small raise from the auditorium floor gave a good space for the ballrooms that Choreographer Paula Geere used for some appropriate looking dance routines that gave the audience the chance to take a breather from the intricate story unfolding in front of us. The one problem with the raise was that we occasionally lost some of the lib against the sounds of others walking around on the creaky floor.  


There was an unexpected very funny start and more than a sprinkle of humour throughout, exemplified by Mrs Bennet portrayed by Karina Bygate. Karina gave us a delightful, light-hearted and jolly lady who henpecked her husband – played stoically by Dave Simmonds – and ensured her family were always at the fore front when a possible husband was to be found.


The Bennets’ five daughters all individually played their parts well. Rebecca Pavlik as the studious Mary was in stark contrast to the more adventurous Lydia (Taylor Farnella) - who was eventually to fall prey to the chancer Mr Wickham (Matthew Hopkins); the excitable Kitty played by Laura-Anne Connor, and Laura Rose Barrett created a believable and compassionate Jane who eventually found love with Mr Bingley (Tom Couch) despite the disapproval of his sister Miss Caroline Bingley cleverly crafted by Suzy Saker.


The main protagonists in the play though are the final daughter, Elizabeth played by Francine Watkins and of course Mr Darcy - her real life husband Tom Watkins. The relationship between these two is the real essence of the piece. Francine managed to craft a believable character who was both feisty and bold, Darcy however is a much harder nut to crack. Tom gave us a well portrayed characterisation, but as the aloof romantic man of mystery I would have liked him to have shown us little more distinction between the private Mr Darcy and the public persona.  


I loved David Lodges interpretation of Mr Collins, a most pompous and unlikeable character. He made us squirm and laugh in equal proportions as he first tried to woo Elizabeth, managed to wed Charlotte Lucas – sympathetically played by Catherine Law – and grovelled for the attention of anyone he considered useful, particularly the elegant and fiercely uncompromising Lady Catherine De Bourgh played by Imogen Roberts. It would have been easy to have overplayed the humour possible with a caricature such as Mr Collins, but for me David got his interpretation just right.


Period dramas – especially with a large cast – can cause numerous headaches for the wardrobe department, I understand that all but two of HHTC’s costumes for this production were created in house. The men’s costumes particularly were impressive – so a big well done to Lynda Livsey-Randall, Cathy Dyer and Veronica Thompson.


“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" – the infamous quote from Jane Austin was the start and end of the play, and in between HHTC provided a very pleasant afternoon’s entertainment.





























 









Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company

“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”  

review date: 20th May 2017

Boxmoor Playhouse

Director: Mariam Gaballa-Gill

MD:  Beth Thomas   

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