Open air theatre may seem like a brave choice given the unpredictability of the British weather, but Heartbreak Productions proves that performing in the great outdoors is a tradition well worth upholding. Pride and Prejudice explores the intricacies of nineteenth-century society in the beautiful surroundings of Charlecote Park, transporting the audience into a period drama complete with a stately mansion, plenty of greenery and even the occasional deer.
For those unaware of Mr Darcy’s infamous charms, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice follows the five Bennet sisters as they navigate their way around polite society in an attempt to secure suitable husbands. Amidst the threat of their estate being entailed away, and under the watchful eye of their increasingly frantic mother, they confront the challenges of courting, etiquette and morality.
Heartbreak Productions’ writer-in-residence, David Kerby Kendall, kept the show to a neat two hours without omitting any of the crucial scenes. Austen’s subtly satiric humour is fully exploited, with the audience laughing at everything from Elizabeth Bennet’s dry wit to Mr Collins’ well-placed and frequent malapropisms. Humour did not prevent the cast from exposing the heart of the tale, with Mr Darcy and Elizabeth evoking a cheer from the audience when they finally kissed – an assurance that Gabrielle Douglas did not disappoint as the sharp-witted Elizabeth, and that Adrian Fear’s portrayal of Darcy satisfied the dizzying heights of perfection expected by die-hard Austen fans.
Elizabeth and Darcy were not the only characters expertly depicted by the cast of five. Laura Danielle Sharp proved her versatility, playing both the childish, obstinate Lydia and the sweet-tempered eldest sister Jane. Laurence Aldridge excelled as the humorous Mr Collins, and Rowena Lennon brilliantly portrayed the frenzied Mrs Bennet and the downright nasty Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The cast’s aptitude was all the more impressive given that every member played numerous roles with minimal costume changes, and managed not to send the audience into a state of confusion in the process.
Watching Pride and Prejudice as the sun set, with the moments of silence punctuated by the sounds of nature, created an atmosphere unique to outdoor theatre. Without the advantages of special effects so dexterously employed in most productions, the actors’ voices still projected effortlessly across the grounds, and the nuances of their actions and expressions seem somehow more pronounced. Heartbreak Productions present an original adaption of the Austen classic that still remains true to the much-loved novel. Pride and Prejudice is funny, heartfelt, and performed by a truly talented cast.
For more information on Pride and Predudice and Heartbreak Productions, see the website here.