Mrs Bennet played by Mary Newman gossips with Lady Lucas played by Sam Coventry. Photo: Paul O'Brien
To suffer one comically bad proposal may be regarded as a misfortune; but two in the space of an hour looks like carelessness.
Fortunately for the audience at the opening of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at the Moat Theatre last night, one of Lizzie Bennett’s wooings left them rolling in the aisles, while the other had them swooning over the hero of the piece.
The plotline of Jane Austin’s classic, the Moat Club’s production of which runs until Saturday, needs no introduction to audiences - at least to those weaned on Colin Firth’s brooding Mr Darcy of the 1995 BBC miniseries.
The stage show, however, rattles along at an entertaining pace - necessarily omitting some of the book and screen versions’ backstory and lengthy subplots. Indeed, one of the Bennett girls, the source of so much of their mother’s angst, has vanished totally from proceedings.
The pacey storytelling and plot contraction is no harm, however, to this charming and entertaining show.
Liam Cooney as Mr Darcy and Rachel Lally as Elizabeth Bennett.
Photo by Paul O'Brien, taken in the library at Russborough House
As produced by the Moat Club, under the direction of Eilish Rafferty, it also comes across as a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for audiences with modern sensibilities.
Every subsequent Darcy is in the shadow of Firth, but Liam Cooney does a great job of portraying the stuck-up hero - as he so appears in the first part of the play.
He plays Darcy’s insufferable pride for laughs, as the audience joins Lizzie in casting some serious side-eye at his pomposity, but never makes Darcy totally unsympathetic as his underlying decency comes through at the story’s crisis point.
Rachel Lally is a spirited and modern Elizabeth, with Lisa Moorhead as winsome as could be wished as the sainted Jane and Daniel Nolan suitably daffy as Bingley.
It is, however, a comic double hander of Brendan Farrell as the unlucky serial suitor Mr Collins and Mary Newman as matriarch Mrs Bennett who truly steal the show.
The Moat Club’s version of Mr Collins’ marriage proposal to Lizzie ranks up there with the best of them. It is sidesplittingly funny, and played for laughs between Farrell and Lally.
The later proposal from Darcy also elicits squeals and laughs of indignation from the audience - mostly outraged at his presumption - before turning nicely dramatic as sorry news from home reaches a stricken Lizzie.
Mary Newman provides some hilarious moments as the social-climbing Mrs Bennett, notably her reaction to her daughter Lydia’s (Sally Aughney) scandalous elopement with the dastardly Wickham (Robert Webster).
The production’s costumes, by performers Lianne O’Shea (Caroline Bingley) and Sam Coventry (Lady Lucas) are exquisite - the latter is a founder member of the Irish Georgian Society and advised the production on the dress and etiquette of the era.
The cast is well rounded out by Sinead Ryan as Charlotte Lucas, Mark Neville as Mr Bennett, Dermot Campbell as Harris, Tom Noone as Colonel Foster, Matthew Rooney as Mr Denny, Michael McHugh as Sir William Lucas, Brian Lyons as Colonel Fitzwilliam, Katie Smith as Martha and a majestic Moll Fullam as the imperial Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
In short, the Moat Club’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a light, funny, summery treat - even without, sorry ladies, a Kildare interpretation of the famed Darcy ‘wet shirt’ scene.
It runs nightly until next Saturday, June 24, at the Moat Theatre at 8pm, and some tickets, at €15, are still available from www.moattheatre.com or 045 883030.