REVIEW: Pride and Prejudice at Norwich Theatre Royal

Benjamin Dilloway as Mr Darcy and Tafline Steen as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Benjamin Dilloway as Mr Darcy and Tafline Steen as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

To some the thought of Pride and Prejudice being adapted for a stage would be puzzling, but in the latest production of Jane Austen’s most iconic play by Regent’s Park Theatre, the story is, as ever, funny, exciting and clever.

From the off, the lively relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet is captured perfectly by Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu, who hold the backbone of the play as the father who only wants the best for his five girls and the hysterical mother who sees the marriage of her daughters as the be all and end all.

Felicity Montagu as Mrs Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. Picture by Simon Turtle and Feast Creative. PNL-160921-164556001

Felicity Montagu as Mrs Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. Picture by Simon Turtle and Feast Creative. PNL-160921-164556001

The headstrong Elizabeth Bennet, played by Tafline Steen, is witty and courageous as the girl who unwittingly falls in love with the abrupt and serious Mr Darcy, played by Benjamin Dilloway.

There was clear, audible relief from the audience at the moment when the pair finally accept their feelings for one another and become engaged, which came after a powerful and seething exchange between Elizabeth and the scathing Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Doña Croll).

Staging was a particular highlight, and although minimalistic, was a fitting backdrop to the complex story – the revolving structure was a clever and simplistic way of showing a change in place.

The supporting cast, which saw Kirsty Rider as Caroline Bingley, Hollie Edwin as Jane Bennet and Anna Crichlow as Kitty Bennet/Georgiana Darcy all make their professional debuts, added depth and emotion to the story.

Credit must also go to Lillian Henley’s original music for the production, which was an elegant addition, and to the costume department, whose outfits resembled the regency era perfectly – noted particularly during the ball scenes.

Simon Reade’s adaptation of the 19th century classic is classy, laugh-out-loud and a must-see.

The play is at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, October 1, when it will move to Cambridge Corn Exchange for a week and will tour at various theatres around the UK until February next year.