It’s Christmas so it must be time for a crowd-pleaser in the Gate. While ‘Pride and Prejudice’ may not be have the seasonal appeal of ‘A Christmas Carol’, it has all the hallmarks of of a Christmas Play – light-ish (although Jane Austen is a far from ‘light’ in some of her intent), entertaining and with an outcome where all’s well that ends well, Alan Stanford has taken a classic and given the audience exactly what they want. This production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ will get the numbers and judging by the audience reaction and the female companion accompanying this critic, the mostly female target demographic will really like this and see it as part of a good night out. and nothing wrong with that at all.
Hat tips have to go to the Bennet girls. All lovely, charming and pitch-perfect English accents. While Aoibhin Garrihy, Rachel Gleeson, Kerrie O’Sullivan and Genevieve Hulme-Beaman all shine as Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia respectively, it is as the central Bennet girl, Elizabeth, that Lorna Quinn adopts just the right mixture of pride and prejudice appropriate for her character that makes her stand out. Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Austen have enjoyed a feminist revision in recent years – the play is about far more than just pretty dresses and witty wordplay – although if this is your thing, you won’t be disappointed. Elizabeth, in looking to marry as an equal, sets out a proto-feminist manifesto well over a hundred years before women got the vote. She won’t settle for a non-love match – but, she has met her match (see the segue there) in Mr Darcy.
The Darcy figure has enjoyed a comeback in recent years – maybe he’s a archetype? – but from the BBC production in the mid 1990s to Bridget Jones, Darcy is back. Sam O’Mahony acquits himself ably in the role, and again, if the audience reaction is anything to go by, will be popular with the demographic. He has a nice stage chemistry with Lorna Quinn as Elizabeth. Where there are laughs to be mined, they are duly mined and he carries the weight of being a romantic lead very lightly on his shoulders. O’Mahony can be proud of his work here (more puns, yep).
The whole evening runs with the clockwork movement of a Mozart concerto. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and the Bennet family is held together by the benign patriarch, Mr Bennet, and Stephen Brennan is completely at ease as the put-upon father of daughters. Barbara Brennan has a scene-stealing part as Lady Catherine. This is will run and run and the Gate are to be congratulated on an excellent team effort and an enjoyable night for many.