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Shannon Taylor & Alix Sideris. Photo: Trudie Lee
Shannon Taylor & Alix Sideris. Photo: Trudie Lee

Theatre Review: "Pride and Prejudice" in Ottawa

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"Pride and Prejudice," a co-production of the National Arts Centre English Theatre and Theatre Calgary, is running at the NAC through December 8. This world premiere adaptation by Janet Munsil features a company of actors from across Canada who interpret Jane Austin's classic novel about love, family and the politics of marriage.

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Reported by

Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

Fans of Jane Austin in general and of Pride and Prejudice in particular will probably have one of two reactions to the stage version currently running at the NAC. They’ll either bemoan the fact that so much of the book is left out or they’ll relax and enjoy yet another version of a favorite classic. For me there’s a basic problem with Janet Munsil’s adaptation, as there would be with any adaptation of this book for the stage. In condensing a complex book of this length many subtleties must be omitted. You’re left with largely two-dimensional characters. It takes some pretty nifty acting to bring these characters to believable life. That said, there are some nifty actors in the large cast who manage it.

Shannon Taylor does a nice job as Elizabeth Bennet as does Tyrell Crews as Mr. Darcy. Since they are the main characters, their roles are fairly meaty and allow the actors to reveal more complexity. Allan Morgan is terrific as Mr. Bennet, able to create a fully human character out of very few lines.

Pierre Brault has great fun with the slimy Mr. Collins and, as usual, his physical characterization is both appropriate and entertaining. Michael Spencer-Davis and the always excellent Alix Sideris make Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner thoroughly believable. Miss Sideris is especially good in her Act II scene with Elizabeth.

The physical production is just plain gorgeous. Patrick Clark’s imaginative set created from large strips of manuscript paper framed with huge paper roses provides a perfect playing space for Director Dennis Garnhum’s fluid cinematic staging. A few pieces of period furniture glide on and off and various elements fly in and out to indicate changes of locale. I loved the moment when the two roses on the stage floor became small fountains. Mr. Clark’s costumes are also good, changing only with small additional pieces incorporated into the action, eliminating the need for lengthy changes.

There’s no credit listed for the excellent piano music that is nicely timed with the action. I don’t know what I can say about Jock Munro’s beautiful lighting that I haven’t said in previous reviews. He’s a master of delicate shadings of color and seamless transitions from light to shadow. The set provides an excellent canvas for Mr. Munro’s talents.

Dennis Garnhum has staged the play with a sure hand and never interrupts the flow. He’s also taken advantage of every bit of humor in the script. Anita Miotti’s choreography is very good and never draws attention when a scene occurs in front of the dancers. Director Garnhum keeps the focus where it belongs. He’s added wonderful creative touches such as the fishing scene and the use of the lanterns at the ball.

This is a seamless and visually stunning production, but unfortunately doesn’t capture the depth of character of the novel. As I said earlier, I don’t think that’s possible considering the time constraints of a stage production. In any case, there’s still a lot in it to enjoy.

On a scale of one to five the NAC English Theatre/Theatre Calgary co-production of Pride and Prejudice gets four Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

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