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Pride & Prejudice - Old Mill Theatre

Reviewed by Chris McRae

 

On a dreary winter’s night, Old Mill Theatre’s sparkling production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was the perfect remedy. This fast-paced, comedic adaptation by Kate Hamill, directed by well-known Perth theatre identities in Carmen and Jason Dohle is certainly full of pleasant surprises, especially for those well-versed in the beloved classic Jane Austen story.


The use of contemporary music played by the Vitamin String Quartet as house music was a nice subtle clue that the audience was in for something a little different and not your classic Austen.


The characters, setting and costuming are all familiar with the story revolving around the Bennet Sisters, their mother’s insistence on marrying them off and the external pressures of 19th-century society for women to find a suitor. Lizzy Bennet is strong-willed and firmly against marriage. Enter the curious, uptight and often infuriating Mr Darcy, with whom Lizzy often seems to find herself tied up in knots. It is a story about the trials and tribulations of love in a different time.

However, the unique nature of this adaptation sees non-traditional casting concerning age, race and gender identity. It is a particularly refreshing approach which worked very well considering the strength of the performers. I found myself immersed in the characters and not who was cast in which roles. The only issue I found slightly confusing was the ages of some characters. The daughters and figures such as Mrs Bennet and Lady Catherine were older characters played by younger performers, and as such their ages and places within the family dynamic were slightly unclear until mentioned in the dialogue. However, this was only a minor issue as the performers made specific and highly effective characterisation choices to combat this issue.

This was a particularly strong ensemble with not a weak link in the cast. Madeleine Biddle and Mason Allen anchored the production particularly well, providing a lovely contrasting relationship between the outspoken Lizzy and the uptight and slightly austere Mr Darcy. Georgia Goff brought a wonderful poise to Jane Bennet, and Ellin Sears clearly relished her role as the bubbly and immature Lydia (also doubly wonderfully and providing an amazing contrast as Lady Catherine). Thomas Dimmick was a clear crowd favourite, proving his comedic chops in the roles of the bouncing ‘puppy dog like’ Mr Bingley and a scene-stealing turn as grumpy and often overlooked sister Mary Bennet. Grace Edwards, again in a double role, brought significant presence and gravitas to the roles of Miss Bingley and Mr Wickersham, giving clear depth to both characters. Patrick Derrig was perfectly unsettling as the cringeworthy Mr Collins and Erin Craddock had some delightfully funny and sweet moments as Charlotte Lucas. Rounding out this strong ensemble was Sarah Thillgaratnam with a highly energetic and entertaining turn as Mrs Bennet and Anne De Bourgh, and Matthew Lister, who gave wonderful presence and comedic timing to Mr Bennet.


The stage was used particularly well, with the venue proving the perfect size for the drawing

room of the Bennet household. The simple yet elegant set design by Ellis Kinnear and George Boyd was complimented beautifully by symbolic lighting design by John Woolrych which effectively communicated the passing of time and the time of day and provided focal points without large set changes. The transitions were smooth with only chairs and small props requiring movement.

Despite some elements of the production taking a more non-traditional route, the costuming was classic 19th Century Austen style and Merri Ford and her team did a wonderful job of creating some beautifully tailored costumes which matched the period particularly well. The use of era-appropriate music was effective, and I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Mary and Lizzy at the piano, which had clearly been well rehearsed to appear realistic (with Mary’s constant piano mistakes and all).


Overall, this was a beautifully warm and inviting production and provided plenty for classic Austen fans as well as elements of non-traditional staging sure to delight theatre and literature fans alike. A lot of fun with excellent performances and production values sure to delight!

Grace Edwards (Mr Wickersham) and Madeleine Biddle (Lizzy Bennet)

Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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