Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC)

@ Holy Trinity Church, Guildford

A Shakespeare Company perform Austen — with only three people, doing all the parts! Cue lots of swift costume changes and clever characterisations.

Utilising the stylish 18th-century setting of Trinity Church, Guildford, the nano-cast of the Guildford Shakespeare Company splendidly delivered an enjoyable Pride and Prejudice. (Even if they were sometimes talking to themselves whilst whisking in and out of jacket sleeves, or across the dining room table!) Most of all it was really, really cleverly done — all the Bennet sisters were judiciously characterised by different coloured hair ribbons, which could appear and disappear into a pocket or hat. Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s transformation was a thing in itself — magnificent! A clothes rack doubled up as a door — to keep Mr Collins in proposal mode out, and to spy on proposal minded Mr Bingley at leisure.

At first I thought I’d miss the many characters, as so much of Austen is about the people and the neighbourhood around them. However, a zippily paced drama and some added humour soon had me gripped. Costume and prop changes were stylishly worked into the drama, and the focus here was on the drama, rather than being a period piece costume drama. But there is still dancing and all those ballrooms! Being in a church building meant that we also got the wedding — and were not Austen denied! Equally, the deficit of actors was covered by having the cast talk about events happening to other family members or friends, and moved the plot along that way.

Location was effectively suggested by the use of different paintings to show where we are, along with the many quick costume changes.

Moving swiftly from one character to another, the actors creation of very different people was sublime, and very, very cleverly done. For example, Sarah Gobran jumped from Mrs Bennet to Caroline Bingley to Jane Bennet to Charlotte Lucas and back again! Luke Barton made a fantastic Mr Darcy, grotesquely pious Mr Collins, doubled up being the housekeeper introducing Mr Darcy portraits to the visiting Gardiners and Lizzy Bennet (including losing a mob cap to pose winningly in picture frames!) and a terrifyingly stately Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Oh, and he was also Wickham in his red coat finery! and popped on some glasses to be Mr Bennet. April Hughes made a charming Lizzy Bennet, but also got strike a bow as Mr Bingley! (I think everyone got to be Kitty at some point or other!)

The take on Mrs Bennet was a bit cruel, making her perhaps too ridiculous, shrill and scheming. Mr Bennet was after all neglectful of his family, and knowing their circumstances, she wanted to do right by her daughters. Though she was obvious, perhaps her way was wise and as caring as Mr Bennet towards their family. But watch it for yourself and see!

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Cultures: Arts Reviews and Views by Susan Tailby

By Susan Tailby. Appreciator of arts and culture; things I've seen and enjoyed and you might too! Reviews all my own opinion....Theatre, Movies, Dance & Art!