Show: Pride And Prejudice
Location: Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester
Dates: Saturday July 17-Monday August 30 2021
Time: 14.30, 15.30, 16.00, 16.30, 18.00, 18.30, 19.00 & 19.30
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Age Rating: 10+
Performers: Jessica Dives, Suzanne Ahmet, Darren Kuppan, Jenny Murphy, Howard Chadwick, Perry Moore, Purvi Parmar & Victoria Brazier
Production Company: Storyhouse Chester
Writer: Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation of the original Jane Austen novel
Director: Conrad Nelson
This is our theatre review for Pride And Prejudice at Chester‘s Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. Now, this production comes courtesy of Storyhouse Chester. So, let’s take a look at Pride And Prejudice!
Pride And Prejudice
This show brings to life the glorious world of Jane Austen. And it comes in full technicolour by way of this major new costume drama. So, Pride And Prejudice is perhaps the greatest love story in the entire English language. Furthermore, this adaptation is a true tale of high-brow comedy, incredible passion and continuous dancing.
And what a cast that this show has! So for starters, there’s Jessica Dives as Jane Bennet, Suzanne Ahmet as Elizabeth Bennett and Darren Kuppan as Mr Wickham. Then we have Jenny Murphy as Lydia Bennet, Howard Chadwick as Mr Bennet and Perry Moore as Mr Darcy. Additionally, there’s Purvi Parmar as Charlotte Collins and Victoria Brazier as Mrs Bennet.
It is a truth for us to universally acknowledge. Namely, that you absolutely do not need to open with such a famous quote or variations thereof. Even if it establishes that most people know what you are talking about, and a plot summary is unnecessary. Nor that such a familiar tale isn’t tricky to receive a sprinkle of stardust to make it fresh and original. However, this particular production succeeds wonderfully. And who would know that Jane Austen would be so keen on gardening? For the grass and flowerbeds comprise the delightful settings. Plus, there would be clear scene changes for the splendour of the ballrooms, not to mention Pemberley.
By contrast, Miss Austen’s humour has a great appreciation and receives beautiful execution here. Furthermore, there are some neat in-jokes, even from Hoylake. But much to our relief, this is, as ever, theatre at its best. And as it happens, one could say the weather was also at its best, albeit too hot for some. Make that many; it’s no joke trying to enjoy something when the heat is literally melting your make-up. Spare a thought then for the cast, and not just those who are Regency clad. Indeed, their cunning costume incorporates dresses on top of breeches and boots to enable the young ladies to double up as soldiers. And of course, there was a fair bit of dancing, along with music and songs as an enhancement.
No wonder Howard Chadwick is so spectacularly grumpy as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Here, the reverse would apply, due to the frock over his attire as Mr Bennett. Okay, the result was Pantomime Dame, but par excellence: what a splendid job. It would also make a pleasant change to have Victoria Brazier as Mrs Bennet. Indeed, she provides much of the humour with her artless, tactless comments. Though rather than quite as ridiculous as her usual portrayal, which not surprisingly provokes his contempt. This time, their bickering appears by and large affectionate. Additionally, foolishness is certainly on display courtesy of headstrong Lydia (Jenny Murphy). And to a much lesser extent, an amusingly shrill Kitty Rosie Jowett having a hissy fit.
Meanwhile, Mia Nelson as Mary has little to say but much to read, wandering around, book in hand. Likewise, minute bit parts too for her Anne de Bourgh, and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. Darren Kuppan and Jessica Dives play the admirable Bingley and Jane. And their somewhat low-key subplot romance plays second fiddle to that of hero and heroine. By way of contrast, and excuse the oxymoron, there’s a pleasing contribution from the haughty Caroline Bingley. And she can snap a fan like it’s going out of fashion.
So we come to the ever-popular Lizzie, and Suzanne Ahmet is as vivacious, fascinating and sagacious as you could wish. Even if she’s secondary to the villain of the piece, Darren Kuppan, who is again the dashing, dastardly Wickham. In fact, you almost have your doubts about her alliance with such a sombre stick as Darcy. But fair enough, the stiffness does dissolve satisfyingly once he is finally happy with his conquest. Perry Moore seems nonetheless far more effective as the oleaginous Mr Collins (mellifluous word for a rather malevolent description). For he’s flouncing, frowning and fawning for all he’s worth. And in fact, I didn’t recognise him. It’s also very clear what a sacrifice the unfortunate yet doughty and pragmatic Charlotte is making.
Pride And Prejudice at the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre is plenty of fun, even in this soaring heat. Ah, but after all, such joy on being allowed out to plays at long last. What better place to enjoy them?
Target Audience: 10+
Content: No Content Likely To Offend
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good
Pride And Prejudice Further Link
Pride And Prejudice runs at the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre until Monday August 30 2021. So, to purchase tickets, please click here.
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