LONDON The adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" for London's outdoor stage was "intelligent" and "pleasing" and saw the emergence of a new talent in the role of Elizabeth Bennett, local reviews said.
Two hundred years after the book was published, Simon Reade's new dramatization performed among the birdsong of Regent's Park, captured the character and the humor of the original novel according to critics.
The British novelist, who was mentioned as a strong candidate for the 10 pound note by outgoing Bank of England governor Mervyn King this week, is a public favorite and the audience giggled along to many of her most famous scenes.
The "production has such charm and elegance that I was almost instantly won over," Fiona Mountford at the Evening Standard wrote in a four star review.
Sarah Hemming at the Financial Times described the move from page to play as "a pleasing fit" saying "Reade's fluid version adroitly balances plot essentials and detailed scenes."
Inevitably some critics stressed the impossibility of squeezing a few hundred pages into two hours and bemoaned that the novel's gradual development of love and irony was lost.
The play moved at a "rather breathless rate of action, losing ironic nuances, making the various romantic reversals seem absurdly abrupt, and broadening characterization," the Financial Times said.
At the heart of the play's tone and texture was Jennifer Kirby's performance of Elizabeth Bennett, her professional stage debut. Graduating this summer from LAMDA drama school, her selection was widely praised.
"Jennifer Kirby, only just out of drama school, brings to Elizabeth a winning mix of mischief and gravity that reminds me of a young Judi Dench, and suggests a bright future," Michael Billington of the Guardian said.
She gave a debut "of quite some note," the Evening Standard said, while the Financial Times described her performance as "excellent."
An adaptation of such a loved classic is never going to please everyone and Charles Spencer at the Daily Telegraph went against the tide, ruing a "lazy and underpowered production."
Spencer picked out Jane Asher's performance as Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a highlight, but said it was not enough to save the show.
During the interval, as the crowd wrapped themselves in blankets and fortified themselves with drinks, one audience member summed up the play as a "good-natured romp through Jane Austen."
(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer, editing by Paul Casciato)