We’ve all seen it, although it’s almost 20 years old, the BBC Pride and Prejudice from 1995 has become the definitive interpretation. So, the new version at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre comes with a lot of preconceptions – the best way to deal with that baggage would be to try something fresh and exciting, going back to the original text and seeing how else it could be construed. Unfortunately this production is largely a live and amateur version of the TV show, to the point that Darcy and Bingley even sound like Colin Firth and Crispin Bonham Carter. Whilst the performances are very competent there was nothing particularly ground-breaking or insightful – I even found myself ticking mental plot boxes as we went along (Netherfield ball – tick; Rosing’s Park – tick; Pemberly – tick).Not all of this can be blamed on the sounds of Bon Jovi in Hyde Park continually yanking us back to the 21st Century.
There was not much engagement between the leads with many of the subtleties and comedy elements of the book lost. It’s not a short evening by any means (three hours with one interval) but it still felt rushed and incomplete. Perhaps that’s again the BBC version colouring my view, which at more than 2 hours longer had time to explore in detail.
It’s not all bad – Mr Collins, Mr Bennett, Mary and Lydia are all played differently and are pretty funny. The rotating set with iron work frame (used for doorways and portraits) was very cleverly incorporated, and it couldn’t have been a lovelier setting, but something is lacking here – it’s not a bad play or even badly performed, just unremarkable.