Despite the persistent rain lashing at the doors of Theatre 3, the Canberra Repertory’s 3rd March performance of Pride and Prejudice opened to a full house…notably lacking in students. This was a shame because the performance was uniformly charming. The play was a delightful romp through Austen’s most famous work, admirably condensing over three hundred pages into under two hours.
Pride and Prejudice’s witty banter, with which it was evident the majority of the audience were intimate, was as fast and fresh as when it was first penned and unburdened by any misplaced solemnity or archaic pronunciation.
The cast swept the audience from uproarious laughter to spellbound silence with ease. Standout comedic performances were given by Helen McFarlane as Mrs Bennett and Sam Hannan-Morrow as both Mr Bennett and Mr Collins. Apart from the odd stumble over Austen’s dialogue, no fault could be found with any member of the cast, from Lachlan Ruffy as a simply adorable Mr Charles Bingley to Katie Doney as a respectable and at times pitiful Charlotte Lucas.
The set design that incorporated the covers and pages of books into its structure was inspired. The production also referenced some of the best features of the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, much to the delight of many female audience members.
The 1995 BBC miniseries was, of course, the elephant in the room. Better know as the adaptation featuring the Colin Firth “wet t-shirt” scene, it is credited with sparking the Jane Austen craze that we currently find ourselves in. The play neither disregarded the fact that fans of the series could probably quote the majority of its dialogue, nor favoured parroting it over seeking an original interpretation.
So whether you were a die hard “Janeite” or just fancied giving the old girl a chance, Pride and Prejudice was hilariously funny and highly enjoyable, and certainly the most fun to be had on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Canberra.