Bringing the text to life
Jane Austen’s classic love story Pride and Prejudice has been adapted in movie format, but Regina’s Globe Theatre has the pleasure of putting on a production of Austen’s novel as a play from March 6 – 24. While movie adaptations can sometimes fall short, can the same be said for plays?
“It can be very difficult to translate a novel to the stage because the written work contains so much detail”, said director Marti Maraden.
“In the novel we are inside Elizabeth Benet's head so we know her thoughts and feelings intimately. On stage we can't do that so we have to find another way to invite the audience in,” said Kelli Fox, who plays Mrs. Benet in the production.
Maraden made the point that Pride and Prejudice has had successes as a play. Christina Calvit’s adaptation for stage use,“captures the essence and heart of Austen's work with verve and wit.”
“This adaptation uses storytelling techniques that have been used successfully before; having a central narrator, but also sharing narration out to a kind of ‘chorus’, and weaving that together with some actual scenes so that it's not all ‘telling’,” Fox added.
To also help make things easier, Maraden has had experience working with plays that frequently shift to different times and places like Pride. Even with a hefty amount of experiences, problems can arise, such as staging the dances.
“On the more common proscenium arch stage or even a thrust stage a director and choreographer can place the dances behind the actors who are speaking. That isn't possible on the Globe stage so it challenges us to be more inventive,” said Maraden.
“In the novel we are inside Elizabeth Benet's head so we know her thoughts and feelings intimately. On stage we can't do that so we have to find another way to invite the audience in.” – Kelli Fox
Because rehearsal time is very short one would think that would be an added issue to adapting literary cannon onto the stage, but Maraden stated the opposite. “Everyone working on the production has done so with such care and commitment that we are further along after two weeks of rehearsal than I could have hoped.”
“We certainly have fun,” Fox said, “we enjoy our work, but we have a very short rehearsal period and everybody knows that so it's all nose to the grindstone so far.”
Of these hard workers is costume designer Emma Williams, who’s acquired several pieces from England used in the play in addition to the exceptional costumes created by the Globe’s costume department. The set designer, Charlotte Dean, has provided the Globe with period furniture that is sure to heighten the authenticity of the play. The Globe’s composer, Stephen Woodjetts, “has created lovely evocative music to underscore our story”, said Maraden. For this particular play, lighting is essential in separating the play’s numerous locations and atmospheres depicted. This will be as success thanks to lighting director Louise Guinand.
Excitement among cast and crew is building as the opening of the production draws nearer, especially with the younger conservatory actors who are stepping onto the stage in major roles alongside their four additional seasoned performers. Fox talked about a “getting to know you period” during the beginning, “but that has been really shortened by the fact that most of this cast has been working together in conservatory for months. It's made it very easy for us to become an ensemble very quickly.”
For a love story such as Pride and Prejudice, chemistry is, without a doubt, essential. “The chemistry amongst the cast is nothing short of superb,” said Maraden. For those who love the interactions between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Benet, they certainly won’t be disappointed!
Is Pride the start of a series of literary cannon adaptations? There’s little doubt anyone would be disappointed if more cannon works were to be done on stage. “Audiences seem to enjoy meeting their favourite reads in the flesh,” said Maraden. Artistic director Ruth Smillie’s choice of Pride and Prejudice could signal the start of more plays like this being put on. Let’s just hope Twilight isn’t the next adaptation.
Photo courtesy of The Globe Theatre