Preview of Lizzie Darcy & Jane by Joanna Norland

Presented by Saddleworth Players and directed by Verity Mann.

Joanna Alexandra Norland’s play Lizzy, Darcy & Jane premiered at the 2006 Bath Jane Austen Festival. In it, Jane Austen pits her wit and will against her greatest adversary and ally, Elizabeth Bennet. Heady with her first taste of love, Jane creates Elizabeth with Mr Darcy taking on the role of her arch enemy and reluctant admirer. But when her actual romance sours, she sentences Elizabeth to marry the odious Mr Collins and herself to an equally disastrous marriage. The fates of the author, the novel and its heroine are at stake. Elizabeth Bennet must take action!
The script drops gems from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ that anybody with a passing knowledge of the novel will recognise. However, it does take a while to acclimatise to the style of writing and the pretext of the piece (telling as it does, the story of the writer and her characters.) It’s therefore a play which needs you to follow the twists and turns and a little prior knowledge isn’t wasted! But trust me, it’s worth the attention.
Direction for this production was in the very capable and experienced hands of Verity Mann. She ably choreographed the style, requirements and challenges with its characters (both fictional and historical) stepping in and out of the action; ensuring that the storytelling maintained pace and impetus whilst not sacrificing the detail or clarity.
An unexpected star of the piece was the soundscape. From the ‘overture’ accompanying the preamble to the pieces emphasising key moments, it worked exceptionally well.

This writing is a big ask for the director and actors and the latter did not disappoint either.

Jane Austen (Charlotte Cochrane) is the thread which holds the plot together and it is a challenge to which she rises and more besides. Narrator, writer, character are a complex blend of demands. She nails them all, assisting us to pick our way through the story as the characters steps in and out of it and she introduces their story and her own, to the audience.
Imogen Turner (Lizzy Bennet) gave us a very accomplished, nuanced performance to the extent it was difficult to appreciate that this was her first stage role. She was a joy to watch and I can imagine this will be the beginning of her being very much in demand.
Dominic Friedrich (Darcy/Tom Lefroy) gave us the anticipated arrogant and proud Darcy and the change in character as Lefroy with a secure change in accent was nicely achieved.
Cameron Kennedy (Bingley/Harris Bigg-Wither/Mr Collins) achieved three very different roles and demonstrated his stage experience in the way he defined and individualised them.
Heather Taylor (Mrs Austen) provided a well thought through, larger-than-life, engaging and animated characterisation and Sue Borg (Madame Lefroy/Lady Catherine de Bourgh) was just excellent. A very experienced actress, she brought all that to bear in all the aloofness and breeding she could muster! Detailed and delightful.
Linzi Wicks (Alethea Bigg-Wither) and Kate Davies (Cassandra Austen) are introduced in act 2. Their standard of performance, their detail, storytelling was worth the wait as they made the most of everything, especially when not the focus of the action.

Saddleworth Players have more than just a passing reputation for quality sets and costume and this production didn’t disappoint.

 The clean design presented an original, stylised, quality canvas on which to paint the glorious detail of this story, with well-chosen furnishings to accentuate the period. A sumptuous costume, lighting and sound plot all came together and suited the piece perfectly.
Saddleworth Players at Millgate Arts Centre approach to casting this play has clearly worked, attracting plenty of new faces. The play needs and is ready for an audience. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of it.

Lizzy Darcy and Jane runs 8th-15th June. Book on 

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