One of Bath’s most famous honorary residents would have been proud and amused by King Edward’s School’s production of Pride and Prejudice, which took to the Wroughton Theatre stage over four nights this week.
Based on an adaptation by Simon Reade (the same adaptation of which takes to the stage at the Theatre Royal Bath 17-21 January 2017), theatre-goers were treated to a sparkling version of the well-loved book.
As the story began audiences were met with a topsy-turvy stage, replete with flying chairs, upside down pianos, collapsing staircases and a canopy full of sky-blue umbrellas (a nod to Southgate’s recent installation?). Right away the audience knew this was going to be no ordinary adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous masterpiece.
Dazzling costumes, mixing empire line dresses with leggings and Converses helped drag the novel kicking and screaming into the 21st century, whilst the young cast brought much-loved characters brilliantly to life. Lady Catherine de Burgh, our heroine, Lizzie’s, nemesis, was played with great comic timing – a mixture between Downton’s Lady Grantham with just a touch of Professor Umbridge, whilst the Bennet sisters giggled and bickered their way through the production. Elizabeth, played by Cecilia Toke-Nichols and Megs Allan (taking the role on alternate nights) was warm, witty and funny, self-aware but taking absolutely no nonsense from the endearingly fallible Mr Darcy (played by Will Prescott and Callum Sipson, by turn).
No KES production would be complete without an original score and choreography. The modern soundtrack, composed by KES’s own resident composer, Mark Boden, propelled the piece from the ballroom to the nightclubs, via Moby and The Killers, and the effect was electric. Meantime, a strong ensemble cast brought additional humour to the story as servants busied themselves between scenes, commenting on the fortunes of ‘them upstairs.’
Bathonians often overlook Jane Austen’s oft-professed loathing of our city, but I suspect she’d have braved a trip back to Bath to see this particular production which reflected her sharp sense of satire, her dry wit, her playful sense of fun as well as her desire to turn conventions on their head and look at things from different angles.