Through the bare corridors of Abingdon Abbey one emerges into one of the most adorably small theatres I have ever seen. Packed with chairs (all filled, by the way) nestled right up to the diminutive stage, the Unicorn Theatre makes for an intimate and enchantingly quaint setting.
Pride and Prejudice is a period drama set in the early 19th century, following skilfully acted Elizabeth Bennet (Laura King) and her family as their neighbourhood is joined by a number of eligible bachelors. At first I was dubious about squeezing this fast paced novel into barely two and a half hours of theatre, and all credit to the adaptor for skilfully managing this difficult task. Although, of course, much side plot had to be cut, the main thrust of the story, as well as the feeling of social bustle, is expertly maintained. This is helped by an ingenious set which, with simple visual cues, keeps the audience updated about where and when the action is taking place. The setting, set and adaptation alone are well worth the £7 ticket.
Luckily, the play is in no way let down by the quality of the acting, which, though still amateur, is high quality and engaging. Mr and Mrs Bennet (Adam Blake, Julie Kedward) were spot-on, interacting in a hilarious manner. Mr Bingley (James Trotman) is amiable and simple, Mr Collins (Tristan Kear) is delightfully slimy, and Lady Catherine De Burgh (Mary Hichens) is downright scary. The list goes on, and in a just world everyone would get a mention.
My only problem was with Mr Darcy (Anthony Webster). I know that he is meant to be prideful and aloof, but surely that does not mean he must always stand in a posing stance with his nose in the air? Yes, the key points of his personality are put forward, but bluntly and at a cost to his humanity. This is minor however, and nestled amongst the other characters is easily overlooked.
The show is engaging throughout and leaves one with that special theatre glow usually associated with professional productions. It would be a crime if any of the seats do not get filled, but judging from the first night, it looks like they will be.
My advice- book ahead, and do so soon.