Monday, November 12, 2012

Pride & Prejudice (on stage)

Just quickly – I don't have much time – I'm just putting down some thoughts about the stage production of Pride & Prejudice I saw yesterday. It was by Independent Theatre, one of my favourite Adelaide companies; over the last few years they've done some great shows, most of which I've been lucky enough to see.

Anyway, I was very keen to see this - P&P is one of my favourite books; I wrote about it here - and with Independent's history of clever, faithful adaptations, I had high hopes.

I was not disappointed. It was a very good adaptation, with all the dialogue taken from the book with an emphasis on retaining the great characters and (more importantly for me, an unrepentant word-nerd) exquisite language in all its brilliant, snarky glory.

The story is excised slightly for time constraints without omitting too much, and there are some limitations in such an adaptation, as certain characters don't have dialogue or even stage time in which to demonstrate their character – Wickham in particular is not really given the opportunity to demonstrate the charm he’s described as having, through no fault of the person portraying him; something TV Tropes would refer to as an informed ability.

Certain elements are played up for comedic purposes, which is a not unreasonable decision given the otherwise fairly gentle pace of the story; most of this falls to Nicholas Ely as the oleaginous, obsequious and altogether odious Mr Collins – and he's hilarious, a kind of oily, fawning stick insect.

Minimal set makes for very quick changes, essential for show like this; it would drag otherwise.

Importantly, they’ve also retained the important underlying social commentary regarding the grossly unfair laws (such as the ‘entail’, the inheritance policy that means Mr Bennet cannot leave his estate to his wife or daughters, which must instead go to a male heir) and the unpleasant social conventions regarding who is ‘allowed’ to marry whom, based on not only social class (as is made quite clear, the Bennets and the Darcys are of the same class; that is not the barrier) but also who their in-laws (Mrs Bennet’s family, on the other hand, is not of the same class) and friends are – and that it would be perfectly acceptable (possibly even encouraged) to shun someone for marrying and associating with people outside of the acceptable ranks.

So, all in all, a good adaptation. Am now really keen to read the book again – it would help if I could find my copy; having turned my house upside down looking for it, though, I'm coming to the conclusion that I've lent it to someone who, like me, has forgotten the loan took place. And I haven't seen the mini-series for a while, or the 2005 film version at all - mostly because of my distaste for Keira Knightley - but I think I can put that aside to see what they've done with it.

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