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Pride and Prejudice

by on 4 July 2022

Pride and Perfect Performance

Pride and Prejudice

adapted by Janet Munsil from the novel by Jane Austen

Richmond Shakespeare Society at Fountain Gardens, York House, Twickenham until 9th July

Review by Viola Selby

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is one of the most well-known and beloved stories of all time, whether your preference is for the BBC’s adaptation with Colin Firth’s infamous wet scene or for the Hollywood adaptation with Keira Knightly as the lead role of Elizabeth B or for one of the many theatre adaptations, there is a version for everyone. 

However, Janet Munsil’s adaptation brings a whole new freshness of character and a quick-paced quality to this popular tale, whilst somehow making you feel you are going through the chapters of the book in detail.  From the very beginning our senses are delighted through the exceptionally colourful and period perfect costumes designed by John Gilbert, Miriam King, Junis Olmscheid and their team.  Each character is differentiated with a particular colour that in itself creates a mesmerising rainbow on the stage, complementing the delightfully British stately homes expertly created by the stage designer Junis Olmscheid, and skilfully enhanced by Paul Nicholson’s lighting design, who manage to create sets that mirror the grandeur of places such as York House with a few simple set pieces and floral bouquets.  My particular favourite must be Pemberley, where portraits are ‘hung’ of the actors in character, a real unique touch to this unique play. 

Having such minimal stage design also allows us as the audience to focus on the talent of the actors, who definitely do not disappoint.  Anna Piggott brings a liveliness and brightness to Elizabeth B with her quick wit and cutting tongue, that I have not seen played so well in such a character.  She makes the character interesting and updated whilst still being loyal to Austen’s creation.  Whilst Hugh Cox will, from now on, be the definition of Mr Darcy with his dashing good looks and ability to act like the biggest constipated arrogant knob turned besotted knight in shining armour.  Cox did especially well when he appeared to have a coughing fit mid-speech but did not let this stop him nor his ability to keep up his portrayal of Darcy.  Whilst the scene between Elizabeth and Darcy when they bump into each other at Pemberly gave me goose pimples through their sizzling chemistry whilst also wanting to hide behind my programme out of sheer awkwardness; a purely magical moment!   

As was the way in which Mr Collins (Pete Messum), Miss Bingley (Sarah Sharpe), Kitty (Ruby Skinner) and Lydia (Leah Dawson), characters who are often depicted in an over-the-top clownish way, were actually played as more relatable realistic individuals, yet still with absolute comedy.  For example, Sarah Sharpe’s impeccably clipped vocal abilities, as the uptight classist Miss Bingley, was sensational.  She made this annoying side character one of the best parts of the whole play and an absolute joy and hoot to watch!  However, even though she was hilariously over the top, watching Sharpe’s Miss Bingley was like watching a real character and not just a stereotype. 

Pete Messum managed to add even more slime and annoyability to the sleezeball character Mr Collins, never once dropping persona.  Even when Messum accidentally tripped on the stairs up to the stage, he used this to add to his comedy and to Mr Collins bumblingness.  I would also like to add how he was exceptional at looking after Holly the dog on stage, artistically ad-libbing when Holly became a little too excited.

Finally Dawson and Skinner are the Ant and Dec of the show, their portrayal of Kitty and Lydia is both absolutely hilarious, particularly their scandalous flirtations with Wickham (played by the gorgeously talented Ben Oakes) showing their ‘sprained’ ankles, whilst also being the most realistic and relatable boy-mad teenage girls the audience have seen. 

These are just a few examples of how the cast excel in their characters’ creations, moving the story along at a quick pace with quick set changes covertly done by the super quick crew.  Whilst music and sound effects, excellently engineered by Marc Pearce and Alexis Childs, are used in such a way that it allows the audience to escape to the English countryside back in the late 18th Century.  A true few hours of absolute escapism into colour, creativity, class and classical literature that will leave you wanting more.   Huge well done to director Fiona Poole and all the cast and crew! 

Viola Selby, July 2022

Photography by Simone Germaine

  1. Moriam King permalink

    Great review, however the set design has been incorrectly credited to Paul Nicholson. Paul designed only the lighting. Junis Olmscheid designed the set. Please can this be corrected.
    Many thanks
    Miriam King RSS Secretary

    • Hello Miriam

      Our apologies to Junis. I have edited in the correction. Thanks for pointing it out. Kindest
      Keith Wait, Editor

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