In 1813 Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice was published anonymously in three volumes. It is fair to say to say that this very talented writer never got the recognition she deserved for the six major novels she wrote in her short life. Such were the times when only status mattered if you were a woman and being married was the only hope you had if you did not want to end up old and lonely. Austen's novel very much reflected the times that she was living in and is in effect a running commentary as to the society she was expected to move in. Having never married herself (two declined marriage proposals) she was able to devote the time she had to writing her novels. 2013 marked the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice and that summer Simon Reade's adaptation of the tale premiered at Regents Park and is currently on a national tour.
There have been many revivals of Austen's work and Reade's production highlights the writer's strong female characters. All of the Bennet sisters are distinct in character, from plain studious Mary to the wild and carefree Lydia, but at the heart to this story is Elizabeth Bennet played wonderfully by Tafline Steen who makes the part very much her own. The fabulous Felicity Montagu as Mrs Bennet brings the comedy relief with gusto and charm and the dashing Benjamin Dilloway as Mr Darcy is perfectly cast as the sombre heartthrob but who's heart eventually melts when he and Elizabeth get engaged.
All in all this is a very sound production with set designer Max Jones's rotation stage allowing for very smooth scene changes and the simple but elegant costumes from Tom Piper. Perhaps a tad too long at 2 hrs 30 minutes, nevertheless this is a charming show with lots of humour and a great tribute to one of our finest female writers.