Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Jane Austen update

Having been born on the edge of the Yorkshire moors, I have always had a soft spot for Jane Austen. So, wondering what we could do on the evening before Wukkers Day, I spied "Pride and Prejudice" at my local theatre.

The theatre is in a converted house, and the owner, Nicholas Ellenbogen, handcrafted the 80-odd seats. The stage is unusual - there is no exit opposite prompt, and the exit downstage effectively opens onto the street. Idiosyncratic it may be, but it is local and it can be fun. 

Armed with two pensioner seats, we strolled down the road just in time for the curtain rise. Up a short flight of stairs, into the roof, past the light-&-sound man, and there were two seats made just for us. 

The show started gloomily, but soon took off with the arrival of some drunken servants. The lord of the house was away, so they decided to have a play, and the play was to be the story of the lord and his lady - and so we were launched into P&P. 

 I don't think I have laughed so much in years. Certainly at the interval, I needed a drink - to replace the tears that had been flowing down my cheeks! The cast was too small, so everyone doubled up, and there was room for some handsome mops to fill out their numbers. Costume and character changes were lightning fast, and the scene changes were masterpieces of minimalism - a dish of vegetables did for the home, a pair of horse statues for the grand house, and a roll of green carpet for the gracious lawns. There were moments of poignancy, as when Darcy wrote to Elizabeth and she read his letter. The closing scene was one of high drama and comedy all rolled into one. 

Matthew Roberts wrote the play and played just about every role; Hilda Cronje made a very credible Elizabeth, and appeared a true Austen heroine; Cameron Robertson was a moody Darcy; Nathan Lynn did a good falsetto to pull off the skirt role of Mrs Bennett;and Dominique Maher was a sympathetic sister. 

As we walked home under a nearly full moon, my wife remarked that, as the curtain came down, she had been surprised to see how small the cast really was. Such was the energy, the changing of roles, the changing of scenes, that you quite forgot what huge talents you had been enjoying. Who needs a cast of thousands?

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