Theatre review - Pride and Prejudice, The Lowry, Salford

Hollie Edwin, Leigh Quinn,Anna Crichlow Mari Izzard - Jane,Mary,Kitty &Lydia Bennet with Felicity Mo

Hollie Edwin, Leigh Quinn,Anna Crichlow Mari Izzard - Jane,Mary,Kitty &Lydia Bennet with Felicity Montagu as Mrs Bennet - Credit: Archant

Kate Houghton finds much to enjoy in this stage adaption of Jane Austen’s novel

Pride and Prejudice at The Lowry

Pride and Prejudice at The Lowry - Credit: Archant

Pride and Prejudice has to be one of my all-time favourite novels, a situation in which I am not alone, as this 200 year old romance still sells by the bucket-load and has attracted multiple adaptations for both the big screen and the small.

With this in mind – working on the assumption that the majority of the audience already know and love the storyline – I can happily, and with no small relief, say that this stage adaptation by Simon Reade is eminently watchable.

Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu as Mr and Mrs Bennet

Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu as Mr and Mrs Bennet - Credit: Archant

Tafline Steen plays our feisty heroine with bold humour; she’s a very modern miss in terms of her physical and vocal delivery – no time for developing our understanding of the invidious position of a single girl in want of a fortune in this gallop of a play. Darcy, played by Benjamin Dilloway, is a somewhat stiffer character (caricature, even?) and most definitely not every young woman’s idea of a romantic hero. He is given no time to display a softer side; his upright, proud and arrogant self barely allowed to bend for the successful proposal, although his first, unsuccessful one, is extremely entertaining and made more so by said unbending pride.

We learn the character of eldest sister Jane through the commentary of others, of runaway sister Lydia only in the final scenes and of Kitty not at all. Mary is played, by Leigh Quinn, with brilliance, however. She says little, but her timing is spot on and her personality made clear.

The two most successful characters are, without doubt, Mr and Mrs Bennet. Following this performance I might argue that what we all need in our lives is a Mr B, rather than a Mr. D. His lines may be limited, but they’re all delivered with the dryness and wit one would expect of a man with five daughters and a disastrous wife. And as for Mrs Bennet, apart from being a little bit shouty (a fault that could be laid at the doors of many of these performers, one wonders if the director is a little hard of hearing) she is simply marvellous. Of course, Felicity Montague has turned in some marvellous performances during her career, so expectations are high, but her timing and delivery are perfect and she drew many, many laughs from the audience.

This complex and finely wrought novel maintains its place in the ranks of favourite books due in great part to the subtlety and dryness of Austen’s commentary on the Society of her time and the position of women within it, the nuances of which are by necessity lost in a play that must romp to a close within two acts. The humour rings clear, her message less so. However, this does not detract from the finished piece – it’s an out-and-out comedy and delivers laughs in abundance.

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If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, then you’ll be a fan of this play. It’s fun, frothy, frolicsome and just a little bit frayed around the edges, but a very entertaining way to spend an evening.

Until 15 October