The Theatreguide.London Review
Open Air Theatre Summer 2013
We may be in the middle of another disappointing summer, but the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre continues to draw in the crowds, following their successful production of To Kill A Mockingbird with another adaptation of a famous novel: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Fans of the novel should enjoy Simon Reade’s excessively faithful adaptation of the 19th century classic, in which Mrs Bennett works hard to find a wealthy husband for each of her five daughters, in spite of her own husband’s indifference to her mission, and even to most of her daughters, with the exception of his favourite, Elizabeth.
With a beautiful set by Max Jones, some lovely costume design from Tom Piper and the opulent surroundings of Regent’s Park, it is a shame this uninventive production seems ultimately content to do little more than put Austen’s words directly onto the stage. In the same vein, Deborah Bruce’s direction is neat but, with the exception of one or two moments, largely uninteresting.
Luckily, charming central performances from Jennifer Kirby as Elizabeth Bennett and David Oakes as the brooding Mr Darcy mean that one can’t help excusing this production for a multitude of sins.
Kirby is deeply likeable and relateable, while Oakes is appropriately dry and strapping as Darcy. Though the depths of emotion lurking beneath the surface are not always quite believable in Oakes’s performance, the chemistry between them absolutely is.
There is also sterling work from Ed Birch, hilarious as uptight clergyman Mr Collins, and Jane Asher as his wealthy benefactor Lady Catherine, all but rubbing her hands in villainous glee.
The mixture of abilities in the cast at large is quite pronounced, though, with Rob Heaps sweet as Mr Bingley, suitor to eldest Bennett daughter Jane, but seeming to struggle with his lines, while Rebecca Lacey is at first funny, then annoying and ultimately almost unbearable as the Bennett matriarch.
Ultimately, this is an enjoyable bit of fluff for a summer’s evening – if you’re lucky enough to experience a summer’s evening when sitting down to it.
Review - Pride and Prejudice - Open Air Theatre 2013