Nick Le Mesurier reviews Pride and Prejudice, presented by Heartbreak Productions in Jephson Gardens, Leamington, on Saturday June 3
We all know the story. How the Bennetts need to marry off their five daughters or else face ruin; how pretty Jane finds true love in the end with rich neighbour Mr Bingley, but honest Lizzie struggles along the way with handsome haughty Mr D’Arcy. How people who appear to be true turn out to be false, and vice versa; and the biggest obstacles to love are, well, pride and prejudice.
Given such familiar material expectations were high. What we got was a full, faithful rendition of the main stories, played with wit and passion, in a bucolic setting by the lake in Jephson Gardens on a perfect evening. The emphasis of the show was on comedy - characters such as Lady Catherine De Bourgh and Rev Collins were straight out of pantomime – and on manners, both the manners necessary to pass in a class-ridden society obsessed with rituals and etiquette, and in the rapport that the cast developed with the audience. We were taught how to bow and curtsy in the correct manner, and even how to dance – no touching! Thus, we were drawn in from the word go.
The wonder with Heartbreak is how they do so much with so little. Just five actors in this show played 20 parts. The company’s whole summer tour will take in nearly 90 venues and hundreds of shows, and they have four plays to offer. If this performance is anything to go by, they’re in for one of their most successful seasons yet. The acting, direction and script were all pin sharp, and the cast received a full-throated standing ovation from the enraptured audience.
* Other shows at Jephson Gardens include Much Ado About Nothing (June 6 and 7 June), David Walliams’ The Midnight Gang (June 8 and 9) and The Railway Children (June 14 and 15). Visit www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk for details.