Pride and Prejudice

August 10, 2017 at 1:29 PM

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’

All of the wit and romance of Jane Austen's 1813 novel came to life on the Saint Kentigern stage this week, in a fast-paced adaptation of her classic story; an adaptation that stepped away from the English gentility of the Regency period to land squarely in the 1950’s! Despite the 140 year gap, the tale of love and values in class-conscious England sat well in its reimagined setting. These were both eras when the role of women, and questions of land ownership and inheritance were tightly intertwined with courtship and the need to find a suitable marriage. 

With five daughters of marriageable age - the beautiful Jane (Amelia Ayres), the strong-willed Elizabeth (Stephanie Ramlose), the bookish Mary (Natalya Trombitas), the immature Kitty (Molly Griffiths) and the wild Lydia (Amelia Elliot) - their mother, Mrs Bennet, had one purpose in life, to find a match for each of her daughters. Stella Taylor stole the show with her larger-than-life, flamboyant portrayal of the foolish, prone-to-hysteria Mrs Bennet. Stella’s nuances of body language and facial expressions perfectly matched the delivery of her lines. 

Mrs Bennet’s over-zealous matchmaking was offset by her gentle-natured husband, Mr Bennet (Matis Ellehuus). Surrounded by a household of excitable women, he observed from afar and interjected with a laconic wit, well-carried by Matis. The need to see their daughters well-married lay in the inheritance laws of the time, which passed property solely to a male heir, in this case a distant cousin they had yet to meet. 

The action picked up with the arrival of a rich gentleman, Mr Bingley (Fraser Hamilton) to the neighbourhood. Undoubtedly, amongst his sophisticated circle of friends, there should be no shortage of suitors and good connections for the eager Bennet sisters. In time, true love blossoms between Mr Bingley and Jane, whilst his friend, the handsome, yet steely Mr Darcy (Alasdair Carmichael-Lowe) finds more than his match in the headstrong Elizabeth. Contrary to the time, Elizabeth is determinedly disinterested in romantic pursuits. It’s the meeting of these two strong minds that provides the source of the title – Elizabeth’s pride and Darcy’s prejudice. As Elizabeth tries in vain to speak for women, asserting an intellectual and moral independence, Mr Darcy cannot help but fall in love with her quick wit. Stephanie and Alasdair play these roles exceedingly well, sparring verbally before eventually softening to find love. 

Elizabeth’s four sisters could not be more different! Bookish Mary, prim and proper, retains her diffidence, sitting aside watching her sisters with an air of disbelief. Jane is full of charm and grace, flirtatious Lydia almost brings disgrace on the family when she elopes with the raffish, self-assured soldier, Mr Wickham (Will Clark), whilst Kitty’s immaturity bubbles across the stage. Each actress manages to stand out individually, bringing their own unique quirks to the roles. 

The arrival of ‘distant cousin,’ the comedic, yet slightly creepy, Mr Collins (Brett Edwards) to make arrangements to inherit the Bennet family home, once again reminds us of the place of women. Brett’s delivery of the gauche, patronising parson, who is equally determined to marry, provides further levity – and a reminder of the perils of marrying for the wrong reasons! 

The backbone of the show is undoubtedly Mrs Bennet as she attempts to see all five of her daughters married and secure; constantly counting the income that each successful liaison will bring! For three, Jane, Lydia and Elizabeth, she succeeds and the ending brings a happy walk down the aisle! 

The costuming was colourful and the set simple and striking, with billowing borders and a central aisle to represent marriage, offset by subtle changes of lighting. The essence of the 1950’s parties - balls in former times - was captured brilliantly through the dancing and music, choreographed by Head of Dance, Mr Geordan Wilcox and assisted by students, Erin Meek and Jo Crawford. 

The ensemble of senior drama students brought colour and vigour to the stage as they transported the audience back to the 50’s – and left us feeling grateful that society’s values have changed. For whilst Austen’s opening line may have been ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,’ beneath it lies the unstated significance that at the time, a single woman was greatly in need of a husband, especially a wealthy one.

Our grateful thanks to Head of Preforming Arts, Ms Jane Horder and Drama teacher, Ms Naomi Wilson, along with their team of staff and students helpers, for bringing out the best in our students and delivering another superb Saint Kentigern production!

 

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