Hear the words ‘open air’ and you might be overcome with a sense of foreboding. Open air? As in no ceiling? As in completely at the mercy of the winds and rains of this year’s summer? Why, only last week it was thundering a gale!
Luckily for us, last’s night’s performance at the beautiful Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre fell on a warm and dusky evening. Set in the middle of the park in Queen Mary’s Gardens (which at this time of year are filled to bursting with outrageous roses), this stunning amphitheatre seats 1,240 and is surrounded by trees, fairy lights and bunting. When the sun sets, the atmosphere is magical.
What better to complement this setting than an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice? Filled with pastel dresses, dancing, dining and giggling girls, the play meets every expectation that this classic demands. It opens with Mary Bennet at a grand piano set on the lawn, where she plays an introduction reminiscent of the soundtrack to the Joe Wright film version with Keira Knightley.
The rest of the play follows in the same vein, with a shrill Mrs Bennet, upturned-nose Miss Bingley and formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr Darcy is somewhat underwhelming (his character hinges, surely, on his brooding, magnetic temperament, which was absent here), but it was Mr Collins, played by Ed Birch, who stole the show, commanding the stage with a flair in lanky awkwardness.
Nothing new or ground-breaking, then, in this ultimately safe production of a timeless classic, but it’s all done very beautifully, with a revolving stage and original score. This play would be hard not to enjoy in such wonderful settings – unless of course it rains.