PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Cameo Players / Little Baddow Drama at Hylands House
If Mr Darcy rode over from Pemberley to Hylands, he'd find another “great park with natural beauty”, and another fine house “handsomely fitted up”, the estate of Mr and Mrs Cornelius Kortwright. And if, on a fine summer's evening last week, he'd made his dripping wet way up from the lake to the portico, he'd have found a horde of ladies, patiently waiting to be shown into the magnificent Banqueting Room.
Cameo's sumptuous version of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Jane Kyte-Hunt, brought a large and starry cast, splendidly attired, home to Hylands. How wonderful to walk out, not into the modest garden at Longbourn, but onto the imposing Repton landscape. The tiny performance area stood, with a few props and a little imagination, for Pemberley and the Parsonage, Netherfield and the Assembly Rooms. Linked by the economical narration of Miss Austen [Nicole Casey], we enjoyed a parade of bonnets and proposals of marriage.
Lindsay Lloyd was a believable Mrs Bennet, a bustling bundle of nerves, sharing her daughters' hopes and disappointments, and trying the patience of Ken Rolf's dry, crusty Mr Bennet.
His performance was a model of selfless stagecraft, drawing the eye with a glance, a gesture, the slightest movement.
Darcy was played, with nonchalant naturalism, by Lionel Bishop – an impressive presence in all his scenes, but notably with Tracy Hammond's poisonous Caroline, and with Sara Thompson's outstanding Lizzy.
Sara caught the fire, the fun and the fury of her character perfectly, I thought, especially when confronting Darcy or rejecting the all-too-physical advances of the oily, boorish William Collins [Robert Bastian].
The other eligible bachelors were Kenton Church's Wickham and Danny Segeth's Bingley.
No weak link among the twenty players – especially impressive were Victoria Costa's depth of feeling as Jane, Catherine Bailey's canny Charlotte and Patricia Lee's glorious outrage as Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
The gaggle of Bennet girls was completed by the bookish, sententious Mary [Jo Poole] and the giggly teenagers Kitty [Lauren Barnes] and Lydia [Sara Triplett-Jones], resplendent in her crimson going-away gown.
The Gardiners were played with aplomb by Paul Randall and Gill Peregrine, and toiling below stairs, Barbara Newton's Hill, heralding the many callers, with Sally Lowe her silent subordinate. Annette Michaels managed two striking vignettes, as Lady Lucas and the loquacious housekeeper of Pemberley, Mrs Reynolds.
The largely female audience loved every minute, especially perhaps the feelgood denouement, with rose-petal confetti and the Bennets triumphant. I did feel, however, that sometimes inner feelings, which surface politeness should have smothered, were made overly plain, and that seated conversations lost a little through being out of sight. Though as my neighbour pointed out, the diction was so clear, the language so polished, it really mattered very little …