By Laurie Scarborough
Pride and Prejudice is the familiar tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. The Rosebank Theatre’s adaptation of the novel is the first I’ve heard of a theatrical production – and what a triumph is it.
Told through a frivolous production in the kitchen by the Bennet household servants, the story unfolds as each servant presents the tale to the audience.
The brainchild of Nicholas Ellenbogen, the play has a minimal cast, with only five talented actors. Our own Hilda Cronje plays a lovely Elizabeth Bennet, presenting this character with the appropriate intelligence, but coupled with a wonderful charm that makes Elizabeth into an appealing character rather than a precocious or rude young lady. Cameron Robertson plays the pompous plum-in-the-mouth Mr Darcy to perfection and the couple are a compelling duo, centring the production beautifully.
Dominique Maher and recent Fleur du Cap nominee, Nathan Lynn, presented strong performances, with particularly good comedic timing from both. Maher plays Jane and a few other small roles, showing her versatility, while Lynn plays predominantly the matriarch of the family, Mrs Bennet. The use of this character in drag was a stroke of genius and Lynn’s performance was golden. He seized every opportunity to send a ripple of laughter through the small theatre, and his lovely performance was essential to the show’s success.
Our Matthew Roberts played all the other roles. His chameleon-like performance, transitioning between different accents with ease was excellent, proving that he is a most versatile actor.
The witty script, written by Roberts over five weeks, was genius. There was never a moment missed for a beat of comedy, which was much appreciated as the dialogue was dense and full. The clever use of props and costuming transformed characters and the stage, making use of the Rosebank Theatre space to its fullest. It worked so well in fact, that it is hard to imagine this production on any stage besides Rosebank Theatre and with any one else but the current five superb cast members.
The ballet music used during the dance scenes and scene transitions was perhaps not correctly period, but I didn’t mind this small anachronism. As a dancer myself, the ballet music has a pleasing nostalgic effect.
The direction should also not go unmentioned, as Kseniya Filinove-Bruton had a tough job. With only five actors and very full script, the triumph of the production is just as much her doing as the actors’.
The only criticism I have for the production (if I must find one), is the stage entrance. A black curtain over a doorway separates the stage from the backstage area, which unfortunately was left slightly open at some points. This meant that the audience could see backstage and this unfortunately broke the magic of the performance.
This was the first time I had been to the Rosebank Theatre, and intimate space is perfect for such a production. In the foyer (adptly called The Green Room) were actor bios written by Ellenbogen himself, the owner of Rosebank Theatre. This was a lovely touch, and gave the production a family feel.
Of Matthew Roberts, Ellenbogen had this to say “In film and on stage he has performed with the kind of love that keeps theatre alive”, and about Hilda Cronje “Certainly the most successful young actress to come out of the Cape in the last ten years.” These actors have done us proud in this production.
All in all this delightful play is not to be missed. Tickets are available on Webtickets here or at the door. The show runs until 23 May.