A splendidly sunny evening and a packed amphitheatre for Illyria's Pride and Prejudice at the Merlin's ECOS site. Weighing in at 3 hours, the production packed in every element of Jane's famous tale by means of a vast cast of frocks, coats, mob caps & top hats and military jackets, all bizarrely coloured like Boden meets Tim Burton’s Alice and splendidly animated by five fabulously choreographed actors to create the Bennett family and all their friends and relations, neighbours, servants and even coach horses. Wildly camp and hilariously funny, yet surprisingly skilful in creating sincerity for those moments when painful passions and perils broke through the romping comic capers.
The cast were wonderful, especially Andrew Lindfield’s dashing Darcy who morphed in moments into a toadlike Mr Collins and flirty Wickham, Robert Took’s witty Mr Bennett plus outrageously outraged Lady Catherine, and Becky George for a medley of young ladies of which my favourite was Lydia, batty as Blackadder’s Queenie and just as imperious. Huge credit to Oliver Grey for adaptation and direction.
Soaps, I've often said, are the writer's friends. Not only do they familiarise our readers with devices like subtext in dialogue and inference rather than exposition, they are also indicators of public interest. Soaps show what's hot and what's not: in storyline terms, what's passé and what's now no longer taboo. Although not a regular attender - though I do catch up with the cobbles of Weatherfield from time to time - I was pleased to see my faith affirmed by the controller of BBC drama production in a justification of an allegedly anti-Christian soap storyline. 'Drama is by its very nature about transgression, and to neuter it would be to do the audience a disservice,' said John York, in the Radio Times - 'The complaints I most robustly defend are those along the lines of, Can you remove the wolf from the story of Little Red Riding Hood? Part of a story's job is to confront darkness and draw lessons from it and inevitably that will upset some people.' Absolutely. Plays should be stimulants not valium. And don't you love that word transgression...
Despite session in the dentist on Friday 13th, I'll end on a note of celebration: With Rosie in the Archangel, after the readthrough of my play at the Alma Tavern with Theatre West producers and Radio 4 producer Sara Davies. Mega congratulations to ultimate winner Sharon Clark who gets the full production - me and the other two shortlisters will be included in the autumn season as a rehearsed reading in September. So despite 'just missing out' on the glittering prize, the final result feels like more gain than pain.
As Beckett says: Try again, try again, I die every night, every time... sorry no that's Keane lyrics... I blame the dental anaesthetic...
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