THEATRE REVIEW: Pride and Prejudice, Hampstead Parish Church

running until 28 November

The Hampstead Players have almost 40 years experience of performing classic dramas and musicals, and for their 2015 autumn show they’ve gone for one of the most time-honoured and beloved pieces of English literature. Pride and Prejudice has the feel of a comfy pair of slippers as we watch the romances unfold and the witticisms fly in this charming adaptation.

Pride and Prejudice - Hampstead PlayersThe work is adapted by Jane Mayfield and follows, for those who don’t know, the romantic entanglements of five sisters in Regency society, as their mother desperately attempts to marry them off to the best match. The Hampstead Players skilfully capture the gentle satire and warm romance of Jane Austen’s best-loved novel, with a strong leading cast.

As Mrs Bennett, Emma Lyndon-Stanford captures the comedy of the character, while Adrian Hughes’s Mr Bennett is the stoic and dryly-humorous foil to his wife’s foolishness. As their eldest daughters, Michaela Clement-Hayes gives a sweet portrayal yet manages to tease out unlikely humour in Jane’s overly trusting demeanour, while as Elizabeth, Sarah Day shows suitable verve that makes her stand out against the conventions of a society that confines women in certain roles. On the flip side, Rosie Wheat shines as the catty Miss Bingley, while Alice Lambert makes the most of the underrated role of the dour and humourless Mary Bennett. Credit must also go to Barney Lyons as the affable Mr Bingley, Jon Waters as our proud hero Mr Darcy, and Bonnie Taylor as a gloriously snobbish Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

The beautiful Hampstead Parish Church gives limited scope for varied staging, but with subtle additions in scenery the creative team effectively move the action between the different houses; however, the company could do with less clumsy stage hands, as scene changes are often noisy and ungainly. Cristina Báncora’s choreography aptly captures the period, although I wish it had been brought forward on stage, allowing the audience to see the detail in the dancing.

Overall the production could do with some judicious cuts, as it is rather on the long side and there are moments that don’t add an awful lot. However, this is a delightful and engaging presentation of an old favourite, and the Hampstead Players are a great find in my local area – a group putting on fine productions who are well worth supporting.

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