A good man is hard to find - at least for the long-suffering Mr Bennett and his indomitable wife Mrs Bennett who, in Jane Austen's 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, are desperately seeking to marry off their five daughters.
But good actors are even harder to find, it would seem, for the touring stage version that Sue Pomeroy has adapted and directed for the Good Company (as it calls itself, but should do so only with every fear of contradiction).
Not announced in advance to the theatres that were taking the production was the appearance of John Leslie - the tall, rakish former TV star who fell spectacularly from grace last year - in one of the supporting roles. In an unprecedented step, Thelma Holt, West End producer and chairman of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre where the tour began, actually issued a press statement against this casting decision!
I wouldn't want to dismiss these casting sleights-of-hand quite so brazenly. But on the other hand, any new theatregoers lured in as a result of Leslie might also find themselves rushing for the exits, some three long and turgid hours later, never to return to the theatre again, either.
At this point, Iím also keen to explain that the fault for this dismal little production doesn't entirely lie in the TV presenterís admittedly awkward, embarrassed performance as a suitor whose monetary motives for marriage are being questioned just as Leslie's own desire for theatrical exposure has caused a stampede of national reviewers, including one from The Sun.
With or without him, this is excruciatingly plodding and episodic literary theatre, that fillets the book for its main incidents and then drains all the drama out of every single encounter. These are interrupted by feebly stilted and inert company dances.
Even far more experienced actors than Leslie - like Rula Lenska who bustles and fusses, simpers and exclaims to the point of exhaustion as Mrs Bennett and Sylvester McCoy as her husband - are hopelessly defeated.
- Mark Shenton