Volume 93, Issue 16
Friday, September 24, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Adaptation not pride of Stratford
Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann
THE BAND HASN'T BEEN THE SAME SINCE SLASH LEFT. Jane Austen's Victorian dramaPride and Prejudice plays at Stratford.
By Brad Lister
Classic author Jane Austen has, in recent years, been one of the most utilized people in show business. It's no secret that Hollywood has traditionally shown great interest in her works a fact evident by the recent plethora of adapted movies. Theatre has also been all over Austen's work the latest example being Christina Calvit's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, currently on stage at The Stratford Festival.
Austen's rich characters, wonderful dialogue and her incisive, witty narration are what made Pride and Prejudice such a wonderful book. It's a novel which highlighted Austen's innate skill for character development and showed she was able to successfully portray each woman as a distinct individual. Translation of such works can be a very tricky task though. For every successful retelling of an Austen story there is an equally unsuccessful rendition. Unfortunately, this latest adaptation falls into the latter category.
While the narration worked well in print, it is obviously more difficult to translate in a live setting. This is where the play falls short and becomes a boring mess. All of the characters interact with one another, however, instead of conveying their emotions they merely recite lines and react to stage directions. When Elizabeth Bennett (played by Lucy Peacock) and Mr. Darcy spar with each other, they augment their emotions by also telling the audience how they're feeling. If it sounds confusing, that's because it is.
The playwright's desired effect was probably to induce audience laughter at the little asides. However, what ends up happening is the audience members have trouble identifying with the characters. The narrative asides essentially turn the play into an odd reading of the novel which is void of any real character development. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for the viewer to invest any emotion in the performance.
This is truly a shame because Austen is a classic writer whose books have been sold all over the world. This theatre project could have been a unique opportunity to bring the characters of Pride and Prejudice to life, but instead the audience is left with only a few brief shining moments.
One such moment is a scene in which Lady Catherine de Bourgh (played by Stratford veteran Patricia Collins) comes to visit Elizabeth Bennett. Collins steals the moment by exuding that same perfect air of exaggerated pomposity which made Lady Catherine a wonderful comic character in the original novel. However, there are far too few wonderful moments like this in the adaptation. What remains is a mess of a production which disappoints far more than it entertains and fails to capitalize on the brilliance of Austen's original work.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999