REVIEW: Pride and Prejudice at Worthing Connaught Theatre

Pride and Prejudice performed by Chapterhouse Theatre Company
Pride and Prejudice performed by Chapterhouse Theatre Company

CHAPTERHOUSE Theatre Company returned to the Connaught Theatre with their innovative style of producing a well-known story with a limited cast.

This time, nine actors perform Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which you might think would lead to a bit of confusion.

Instead, thanks to excellent characterisations, there are no doubts over who is who and the end result is a brilliant interpretation of the much-loved tale.

Some things, of course, have to go – the sumptuous houses and rolling hills, for a start.

Chapterhouse set designer Peter Eldridge went for the less-is-more approach, which worked surprisingly well.

If you’re going to keep it simple, then the few items chosen as set and props have to be carefully chosen and adaptable.

Just two square boxes covered in a throw became chairs, tables, sideboards, etc., in Netherfield, Pemberley, Longbourn, et al.

Combined with two pillars, two windows, a grandfather clock and a desk you might be thinking this is not enough to project the ambience of the early-1800s country houses.

Not so, I found the simple approach worked well, with the addition of a pair of comedic footmen to effect the many scene changes.

Each actor played their parts to perfection, with those who had more than one particularly impressing with their ability to change character so convincingly.

Kate Elizabeth Ambrose was visually a little slender for Mrs Bennet but wonderfully wild in character, repeatedly screeching across the stage in search of her long-suffering husband.

She was more demure as Mrs Gardiner and positively masterful as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, having everyone on the edge of their seats in the tense and gripping scene where she tells Elizabeth she is just not good enough to take her nephew’s hand.

Having impressed as the best on stage when Chapterhouse brought A Christmas Carol to the Connaught just before Christmas, Edwin Wright returned in the role of Mr Darcy, getting the characterisation absolutely right though perhaps not quite meeting the mental image of possibly the most desired man in English literature.

The rest of the cast was equally masterful, especially Rhia Coles as the silly, flighty Lydia Bennet and the positively spiteful Caroline Bingley.

Laura Turner took on the difficult task of rewriting a big novel for a two-hour play and in doing so, decided to lose the role of Kitty Bennet, leaving me thinking “I’m sure there were five Bennet sisters....”.

But she achieves a script that captures the essence of the story with all the key elements included.

This clever production of Pride and Prejudice is not to be missed.

Catch it at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, today (Friday, January 14) at 7.30pm and tomorrow (Saturday, January 15), at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.