...David Oakes makes a good fist of resembling a creepier version of Colin Firth, reinforcing Jane Austen's point that you can't always judge a book by the cover... There are so many explanatory letter-reading scenes in Deborah Bruce's production that you could have sub-titled the piece, "Honeymoon Salad, Letters Alone."... The verbal interjections of Frances McNamee's Caroline Bingley in gold satin sharpens into bitchiness, and the resigned commentary of Timothy Walker's hilariously light-footed and carefully articulated Mr Bennet soften the blows of disappointment... Walker makes a great deal of a tedious role, and there are outstanding performances... This is a production that neither says anything brilliant or new about Austen nor benefits, really, from being played in the open air under a darkening sky.
...I must confess to harbouring a little advance suspicion myself but Deborah Bruce's production has such charm and elegance that I was almost instantly won over... Jennifer Kirby makes a professional stage debut of quite some note as Elizabeth Bennet; her intelligent, laughing demeanour and sparkling eyes make her the perfect foil for David Oakes's brooding, depth-suggesting Mr Darcy, whose shirts, I feel obliged to report, remain resolutely dry. The spectres of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen slink away pensively when this pair square up... Pleasingly, there's also space for the nuanced matrimonial compromise of Charlotte Lucas. All in, a lot to be proud of.
…Simon Reade has done a thoughtful, intelligent job and the production looks good, yet what one misses is the persistent, ironic voice of Jane Austen herself… Even if any adaptation inevitably offers diluted Austen, Deborah Bruce's production is well staged. Max Jones's revolving, two-tier set, with wrought-iron gates echoing those in Regent's Park, ingeniously accommodates the story's shifts of place. Jennifer Kirby, only just out of drama school, brings to Elizabeth a winning mix of mischief and gravity that reminds me of a young Judi Dench, and suggests a bright future. David Oakes glowers handsomely as Darcy, and there is strong support from Jane Asher as an icily imperious Lady Catherine, as well as Timothy Walker as a consciously caustic Mr Bennet…
…the Open Air Theatre's lazy and underpowered production. It is – dread word – a romp that somehow misses almost everything that makes Pride and Prejudice such a great and wonderfully enjoyable novel… Deborah Bruce's production certainly looks a picture in this sylvan setting, with its empire-line dresses, country dancing and a handsome, revolving split-level design of grand iron gates and railings. Unfortunately the acting is decidedly patchy… Here the chemistry dismally fails to ignite. But almost all the performances seem underpowered… There are a few glimmers amid the gloom… For the most part however, this most delightful of novels proves a dreary dramatic slog.
…This bicentennial Simon Reade adaptation provides an unusually elegant and thoughtful frame for Deborah Bruce… It clips along smartly from scene to scene without a moment's confusion… the revolving, wrought-iron set by Max Jones provides with transparent simplicity a sense of Austen's world of antechambers and corridors. Lillian Henley's piano score is perfect and the dances artfully in character. Eleanor Thorn's Lydia romps for England, smiling Jane trips primly, Lizzie circles Darcy as suspiciously as a cat. And Ed Birch's skinny, superlatively prattish Mr Collins, in black stockings and stack-heeled boots, has the best Comedy Legs since Maureen Lipman. In the second and more dramatic part, there is nice directorial invention… And Kirby, in a piece of interpretation often scorned by overfeisty screen Elizabeths, betrays during that confrontation a sudden real distress which catches your heart.
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