The 3rd Year Acting students at WAAPA recently presented Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin at the Geoff Gibbs Theatre.

It was directed by Adam Mitchell, who states in the program that they tried to create a “fluid, golden and opulent world”. I would say that this was achieved to varying degrees of success.

The somewhat squeaky revolving stage and using the cast as stage hands did contribute to fluidity in the scene changes. While this made for snappy transitions, it didn’t often allow any time to change costume, which saw the Bennet ladies attend a ball in their house dresses.

The tarpaulin draped on the rear wall and sides of the stage did intrigue me as I walked in and it looked to me like either rock or drapes. I imagined that as the lighting would change, we might see these materialise into the effect of differently coloured curtains, to signify different houses perhaps. It was not to be however, and instead, surtitles and the positioning of furniture were used to signify the changing of the scene.

There was a clever moment though, which also required a lot of the two actors involved, who used stillness and the door frames to play portraits of themselves hanging on the wall in the Darcy household.

Mr Bennet was played by Luke Fewster, who had a gorgeous voice, adjusted nicely to accommodate his age and station, but dimples that danced on his baby-faced cheeks that gave away his youth. Harriet Gordon-Anderson as Mrs Bennet had a fantastic vocal transformation but also struggled to physically age as required. It is a perennial challenge for WAAPA to present classics and a wide range of texts that, whilst being important to study and perform, are not age-appropriate casting for their students. The burden lies not only with the actors to transform, but with the entire production and technical team to support the audience’s suspension of disbelief.

Jessica Paterson was just the right blend of feisty, girly, proper and modern to portray the heroine of the story, Elizabeth Bennet.

Lincoln Vickery was enchanting as Mr Darcy. At first his stiff upper lip and aloof nature dominated his character, which didn’t allow for much warmth or softness. This made it even more delightful toward the end of the play when he confessed to his errors and weaknesses, and pledged the love in his heart for Elizabeth, so that we could see his expression melt a little.

There was a touch of humour where it could be found in Mr Collins (Seamus Quinn) and a few of the ensemble roles.

The standout performance was by Megan Wilding as Lady Catherine DeBourgh, who despite her tiny stature, towered metaphorically over each other character and ominously over the stage each time she graced it with her presence. Every part of her characterisation, from her accent to her physicality to her costume, hair and make-up was superior.

I look forward to seeing the next offerings from this cohort, which will include the classic plays; Arthur Miller’s All my  Sons, JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World and Shakespeare’s Macbeth as well as a self-devised piece, The Mars Project. 

WAAPA presents
by Jane Austen | adapted by Simon Reade

Director James Millar

Venue: Geoff Gibbs Theatre
Dates: 13 – 19 March, 2015
Tickets: $30 – $25

Performed by 3rd Year Acting students

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