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Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the appearance in print of Jane Austen’s ever-popular novel, Simon Reade’s stage adaptation breezes through the husband-hunting escapades of the five Bennett sisters as possible suitors come and go.

Simply staged on a two-tier rotating set of green and gold railings (which at one point become the frames for the numerous Darcy family portraits), Deborah Bruce’s efficient production stays true to the fundamental spirit of the book as the garrulous Mrs Bennett despairs of finding sufficient wealthy, well-connected bachelors to guarantee the financial security and social status of her all-female brood.

Fresh out of drama school, Jennifer Kirby gives a likeably assured performance in the pivotal role of Elizabeth, capturing both her independent spirit and her outspoken wit as she initially despises  - then falls for - David Oakes’ haughty Mr. Darcy.

But, in general, there’s little room for depth or subtlety – partly, perhaps, because of the open air venue (charming though it is when the rain holds off and the temperature improves), partly because of the necessity to strip away much of the original.

So although Ed Birch’s ingratiating clergyman cousin, Mr Collins, gets the laughs with his ridiculous spindly-legged bows and his determination to recruit a wife – almost any wife – in order to please his benefactress (Jane Asher’s disdainful Lady Catherine de Bourgh) it’s a rather too broad interpretation.

But Rob Heaps displays an endearingly puppyish happiness as the somewhat colourless Mr Bingley when he finally gets his sweet-natured Jane, the empire-line dresses place the production firmly in period, and there’s enough dancing in various country homes to make this an enjoyable, if unexceptional, evening.

Open Air Theatre
Inner Circle, Regents Park, NW1 4NR
Tube | Baker Stree
£25.00 -£55.00
Until 20th July
openairtheatre.org

Photo: Johan Persson


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Pride and Prejudice - theatre review: Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park
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