It is a truth universally acknowledged that any review of a stage adaptation of Pride And Prejudice must begin ďIt is a truth universally acknowledged...Ē Thatís an obvious joke, and not very funny at all. Nevertheless, it has more wit, flair and spark than this show. Iíd read other reviews of Sue Pomeroyís production earlier on its six-week tour, but I didnít believe it could really be that dreary. More fool me.
Letís not get carried away, though: the one-star rating Iíve given it isnít intended to signify a total disaster. The set (such as it is) doesnít fall down. Nobody bumps into the furniture, although it gets moved around so often (28 times, by my count) that Pickfordís may feel their business is threatened. Itís just stiflingly unimaginative, numbingly tedious, and directed and acted in a bogglingly antique style.
Watching this, you couldnít believe that a TV adaptation of Jane Austenís novel rekindled our love of costume drama, nor that it was remotely sexy. The Bennet family, Mr Darcy and company mimble around for two and a half hours, engaging in a dozen or so pointless dances and rearranging the chairs. The acting is for the most part stilted and one-dimensional, which at least means John Leslie doesnít stand out.
This is TV presenter Leslieís first acting gig, and it shows. Heís stiff, self-conscious and tries to look deep by keeping his eyes half-closed. Incredibly, experienced actress Rula Lenska is worse. Her Mrs Bennet utters every line in the same silly hoot, and as itís the end of the tour she really ought to know charactersí names by now. Sylvester McCoy survives as Mr B only by putting his clowning skills to use.
The whole thing is astoundingly old-fashioned, not in the sense of evoking the period but of the sort of tatty mediocrity we thought had died out with the end of weekly repertory theatres. Pomeroy calls her outfit Good Company. Thereís a Trades Descriptions Act case just waiting to be taken up there. Early in the evening, one of the Bennet girls gasps, ďOh, what fun we shall have, what balls!Ē What balls indeed.
Written for Teletext.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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