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Sunday 31 August 2014

theatre

john mckeown

Published 06/12/2013 | 02:30

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pride and prejudice

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gate theatre, dublin

The leisurely subtleties of Jane Austen's novels with their finely graduated exposure of character and unhurried plot resolutions are hardly designed for the stage. The inevitable compressions alter the pace and tone completely, often disastrously.

Alan Stanford's revived adaptation does a fairly good job of setting up the situation of the five Bennet daughters whose mamma is desperate to marry off to rich husband. But, in the second half, the resolutions and engagements are all squashed together to an almost farcical degree.

Mr Bingley (Stephen Swift), renewing his attentions to Jane (Aoibhín Garrihy), appears with a brace of pheasants hanging from his shoulder. Jane is delighted and skips off with him. He informs Elizabeth (Lorna Quinn) that Mr Darcy (Sam O'Mahony) is in London, but within seconds Darcy returns.

The dissolute Wickham (Michael Ford-FitzGerald), who Darcy has persuaded to marry Lydia (Genevieve Hulme Beaman) and save the family from disgrace, appears hot on his heels, quickly followed by Lady de Bourgh (Barbara Brennan), Darcy's frigidly aristocratic aunt, descending to terrify Elizabeth out of any intention she has of marrying her nephew. Darcy pops up as soon as she's goneand soon the lovers are united.

There's no room for suspense in this glib pile-up of events, driven forward on a rising tide of hilarity. Kitty Bennet (Kerrie O'Sullivan) runs on and off screaming, Mrs Bennet (Eleanor Methven) hyperventilates with joy in the sudden rain of moneyed men and the erudite Mr Bennet can't resist a spot of capering.

Suspense as to how Elizabeth and Darcy are to be united also suffers by the fact that Elizabeth is narrating. When she visits Darcy's estate, she simply tells us of her change of heart, reeling off her "respect, esteem, gratitude."

A moment later he turns up, a bad penny turned good, and still, at this crucial moment, there's not a trace of amorous chemistry between them. Most of the time they seem to be acting together in different rooms, unable to engage with each other.

They have their strong moments, though Quinn is a relentlessly jaunty rather than a measured Elizabeth Bennet. Her showdown with the haughty Lady de Bourgh crackles with confrontation, while O'Mahony is at his most passionate when explaining his behaviour to Elizabeth after his first abortive proposal. But the most rousing presence is Mark O'Regan's Mr Collins, Elizabeth's cousin and Lady de Bourgh's toadying tenant. While the comedy runs amok, it's only this twitching, lustful grotesque who's genuinely funny.

Irish Independent

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