Hong Kong Arts Festival 2015

Stage version of Pride and Prejudice still speaks to modern audiences

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 March, 2015, 6:13am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 March, 2015, 10:48am

Pride and Prejudice

Gate Theatre

Lyric Theatre, Academy for Performing Arts

Reviewed: March 5

Is Jane Austen's 1813 Pride and Prejudice, by Dublin-based Gate Theatre as part of this year's Hong Kong Arts Festival, relevant to a contemporary local audience?

I didn't think so until the scene in which the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, became passionate about Mr Darcy's real estate, Pemberley Woods, rather than the tall, dark and brooding protagonist himself.

According to the novel, the property "was a large, handsome, stone building standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high, woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance … Elizabeth was delighted."

Frankly, so was I, as I drifted into a reverie, imagining myself the master of a vast estate - a fantasy for most inhabitants of a city where even a 300 sq ft flat is out of reach.

Then there is Mrs Bennet, whose prime concern for her five daughters' welfare never strays far from how wealthy their suitors are. Most of us can relate to that character.

Director Alan Stanford played up the economic plight of the Bennets, making this costume drama as relevant today as it was then. The performance was well paced, and despite the sprawling, dramatic narrative, it never descended into soap opera.

But what of the romance? Here is where the production falls short in delivery; there wasn't much of a spark between Sam O'Mahony's dashing but robotic Darcy and Lorna Quinn's lively Elizabeth; other relationships also received cursory treatment.

Marion O'Dwyer was excellent as Mrs Bennet, whose practical approach to life left everyone smiling.