Photo: Tim Matheson
Matt Kennedy and Kat McLaughlin  Credit Tim Matheson

Credit Tim Matheson

Theatre at UBC 
Pride and Prejudice by Jon Jory adapted from the novel by Jane Austen

Dates and Venue 14 - 30 November 2013, 7:30 pm | Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC

Director Lois Anderson Set Design Shelby Bushell Sound Design Scott Zechner with Lois Anderson Costume Design Chanel McCartney Lighting design Chengyan Boon with Robert Gardiner Stage Manager Renee Liyan Liu

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Miss Eliza Bennett is a charming and clever young woman in possession of a sharp tongue and quick opinions. These talents together with many others are on display in Jon Jory’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at the Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC.

A coming of age novel, a critique of the romantic novel, a social satire on English county life in the age of elegance, a tale for sisters, but chiefly a love story, Pride and Prejudice has kept a place in the hearts of the romantic and the pleasure centres of the cynical for 200 years and shows no signs of losing its grip. Jon Jory’s recent adaptation as a stage play eschews some modern affectations (vampires spring to mind) and sticks so closely to the novel as to be almost not dramatic enough. The first act is a very brisk exposition without much time for the audience to develop a relationship with the characters or the characters with each other. The text is largely Austen’s own and sparkles with wit and vivacity.

Morgan Churla (Jane Bennet) and Daniel Meron (Bingley) did a good job of establishing the quiet steady affection between them. Doublecast Natasha Zacher nicely differentiated the sensible Charlotte Lucas and vacuous Mary Bennet. Nick Preston was plausible as the personable villain as Wickham.

More tension and a warm resolution follow in the second half. The reserved Mr. Darcy is played by Matt Kennedy in a nicely developed performance which moves from, as he thinks, shy and awkward, or as others see it, rude, proud and aloof, to genuine self knowledge. Less emotionally engaged, Kat McLaughlin’s was nevertheless a spirited and charmingly open Elizabeth whose changing thoughts were clearly shown in her face.

Other parts were filled with varying degrees of success. I particularly liked Catherine Fergusson’s Kitty and Naomi Vogt made a physically imposing Lady Catherine de Burgh. Excellent diction from all, especially notable in the choral speaking, was marred by a few verbal mispronunciations. There was also far too much shouting, which was not amusing.

Both amusing and charming were the delightful cutouts of characters and carriages which travelled across the front of the stage as the action moved from place to place

Chanel McCartney has succeeded in the difficult task of making modern women look elegant in Regency dress. The men are equally dashing. Where the costumes ground the cast in Georgian times, supported by Scott Zechner’s musical selections and ambient sound, the brilliantly conceived set is more abstract, though still maintaining a period aesthetic. In keeping with such a literary work, it is built of books, all showing the bindings of early editions of Austen’s works. A large oval suspended across the back of the stage is used for the introductory portraits of some characters, and the entire backdrop rises at the end to show the lovers silhouetted in a decidedly modern embrace. Excellent lighting by Chengyan Boon completes the picture.

Lois Anderson’s direction was intelligent and well paced. Although uneven in execution this is a production well worth seeing.

2013 Elizabeth Paterson