Pride & Prejudice at The Spring Arts Centre, Havant REVIEW: 'Beth Evans gives us exactly the Lizzy we want'

Bench Theatre’s autumn offering at The Spring is Simon Reade’s adaptation of the gorgeous Pride and Prejudice.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 8:31 am
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 8:31 am
Stuart Reilly as Mr Darcy and Beth Evans as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by Bench Theatre
Stuart Reilly as Mr Darcy and Beth Evans as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by Bench Theatre

It’s a fine adaptation of the lengthy novel, touching base with Austen’s original exactly where it should and what is left out isn’t missed at all. The principal cast, too, are uniformly good with some stand-out work in some of the central performances and a superb cameo.

Let’s start with the cameo. Jo Langfield as wayward sister Lydia is a joy; a perfect example of there being no such thing as a small part. Langfield is natural (not easy when you’re fighting that Regency dialogue) and funny and cheeky and just very good.

Sarah Parnell dances dangerously along the edge of the pantomime-baddy cliff as Lady de Bourgh, but those who know her work know she’s never in any danger of flinging herself over the edge. Likewise, Sally Hartley’s Mrs Bennet could become parody but never does – and her comic timing is a joy to behold. While we’re on the comic timing, I have just two words to say: Mark Wakeman. Sublime.

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As the focus of the piece, Beth Evans gives us exactly the Lizzy we want and Stuart Reilly once again demonstrates the fact that he’s one of the company’s finest actors with a truthful, nicely observed, performance as Darcy.

Where the production falls down is in the crowd scenes; the dance-sequences in particular reek of under-rehearsal and one can’t help but feel that the cast aren’t enjoying themselves. The energy-levels fall off dangerously here.

Act one is over long (the fault of the script) but act two moves along nicely.

Until November 30.