Pride And Prejudice, Theatre Review. Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

Cast: Daniel Abbott, Francesca Barley, Anna Crichlow, Doña Croll, Benjamin Dilloway, Holly Edwin, Mari Izzard, Matthew Kelly, Steven Meo, Jordan Mifsud, Felicity Montagu, Charlotte Palmer, Leigh Quinn, Mark Rawlings, Kirsty Rider, Tafline Steen, Geoff Arnold, Jessica D’Arcy, Rose Daulbey, Ally Manson.

It used to be said that manners maketh man, that to be seen as genteel, saying all the right things in polite company, was the way that lead to Britain being seen for its conduct in society, that the revolving doors of etiquette depended its life on how people were judged and measured.

Jane Austen’s remarkably forthright and ahead of its time novel Pride and Prejudice not only salutes that idea but also and wonderfully mocks it, not with a sense of injustice, but one with wit, style and influence; it is a book adapted many times but one in which could be argued has not had the excellent Tafline Steen take the part of the great heroine of 18th Century literature Elizabeth Bennett and one that embraced the facets of the character and its production perfectly.

Mr. Kelly’s performance as Mr. Bennett was both charming and uplifting, portrayed with an overwhelming sense of charm, that was equally shared by Ms. Steen as Elizabeth Bennett, and a great sense of humour and propriety. Appearing once again on the Liverpool stage and after a hugely successful run in Twelfth Night at the Everyman Theatre, Mr. Kelly gave the character abundant hope of kindly wit, something that perhaps could be argued in many of the television adaptations, certainly to the great effect that Mr. Kelly performed with diligence to the Playhouse Theatre audience.

Outstanding praise must go to both Deborah Bruce as Director and Max Jones as Set Designer. Ms. Bruce’s vision of taking a classic book, one of Britain’s much loved and uniquely acclaim novels, and giving it an even bigger sense of grandeur is to be admired, working with Sian Williams on the movement of such a large ensemble, each with their own dedicated patterns of passage on the stage, was incredible and one that worked beautifully in a revolving set that did much to throw thoughts of the social circles that entwined the lives of the families and their standings on stage.

It is was in this mix of social standing, the recently endowed Middle Classes of the times that saw Jane Austen take a great in depth look at the way Britain had evolved, the manners and customs, the great swathes of expression and language used, often to convey the simplest of denials, was intensely rich and music to the ear. It was a richness conveyed by this magnificent cast, one that made this particular adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Simon Reade a joy to be immersed in.

Ian D. Hall