Monday, August 02, 2010

Illyria's Pride and Prejudice at Nostell Priory

I've always loved the open-air touring theatre company Illyria.

I've always loved Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice.

Moreover, two of our actors, Miriam Jay Allwright and Robert Took were in the cast and - and yes, I know I would say this, because I work with them, but they're both excellent.

So I had high hopes from this evening's performance of Pride and Prejudice at Nostell Priory, near Wakefield. And actually, it was even better than I thought it would be.

Illyria's productions are always good, for a variety of reasons: the adaptations are intelligent, the actors are superb hard-working professionals with masses of energy, the shows are fast-paced, very entertaining, well-directed and clear. There's always masses of doubling with each actor playing several roles and it's all done at top speed and very wittily.

There was a simple set: here it is with Gareth and Olli sitting in front of it:

We arrived at about six, although the performance didn't start until half-past seven. We know from previous experience that there'll be an audience of several hundred - indeed there was, all bearing picnics and garden chairs - and that if you want to get near the front, you have to be early.

It was quite chilly as there was a clear sky - but this, of course, is much better than rain. I'm a veteran of a lot of outdoor theatre and hence had taken my warm winter coat!

All Jane Austen's characters were vividly brought to life by a cast of five and here they all are:

One thing that I particularly liked was that this production captured all the original's comedy, wit, satire and emphasis on wealth. No "this is a classic so it must be treated with reverential dullness" approach.

It is a fact universally acknowledged (sorry, I had to get that line in somewhere I'm afraid and I'm writing this at half-past midnight so do please make allowances) that Illyria's actors never have an easy time. If you look at the tour schedule on the site you'll see that they spend the whole summer rushing about all over the country and often performing in the worst of the British weather.

Lots of them do it for several summers in a row. Because actors know when they're in a show they can be proud of, and this is just such a show. Hurrah for British theatre!


Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Because I am married to a woman of Albanian extraction, I know that Illyria is the ancient name for the land called Albania today, and that the modern Albanian word liri means freedom.

This troupe have the freedom to go about the countryside presenting their productions in an excellent manner!

12:44 pm  
Anonymous Jo said...

i like the picture of olli, as if to say *he he you have a camera*

9:52 pm  

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