‘Pride and Prej­u­dice’ rein­vented as gen­der-neu­tral two-han­der

The Korea Times - - THEATER - By Kwon Mee-yoo [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Jane Austen’s 1813 “Pride and Prej­u­dice” is one of the most pop­u­lar ro­mance nov­els with lively char­ac­ters ban­ter­ing and ar­gu­ing with each other. This pro­to­type of the con­tem­po­rary ro­man­tic com­edy has spawned many screen and stage adap­ta­tions, in­clud­ing a 2013 two-ac­tor ver­sion by Two Bit Clas­sics, which ar­rived in Seoul last month.

There are so many dis­tinct char­ac­ters in “Pride and Prej­u­dice,” but this adap­ta­tion by Joanna Tincey, cre­ated on the oc­ca­sion of the 200th anniversar­y of the novel’s pub­li­ca­tion, stands out by cast­ing only two ac­tors.

This no-frills ap­proach makes au­di­ences fo­cus on one-on-one re­la­tion­ships and the con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the char­ac­ters, re­dis­cov­er­ing each of them in a new way.

There are 21 char­ac­ters of all ages in the play, from the five Ben­net sis­ters and their par­ents to new neigh­bor Charles and Caro­line Bin­g­ley and their friend Fitzwillia­m Darcy.

Un­like tra­di­tional theater in which women play Lizzy and Jane Ben­net, while men take on Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bin­g­ley, this play as­signs its two ac­tors’ roles re­gard­less of gen­der.

Ac­tor 1, al­ter­nately ac­tresses Kim Ji-hyun and Jung Woon-sun, plays Lizzy, Mrs. Ben­net, Ly­dia, Mr. Bin­g­ley, Caro­line Bin­g­ley, Char­lotte Lu­cas, Mr. Denny, Lady Cather­ine de Bourgh and Mrs. Gar­diner.

Ac­tor 2, Lee Dong-ha, Yoon Na-moo and Lee Hy­oung-hoon, takes on the roles of Mr. Darcy, Jane, Mr. Ben­net, Kitty, Mr. Collins, Wick­ham, Lady Cather­ine de Bourgh, Wil­liam Lu­cas, Mr. Gar­diner and the housekeepe­r of Pem­ber­ley.

The play runs for two hours and 40 min­utes with a 15-minute in­ter­mis­sion, which is pretty lengthy but nec­es­sary to con­vey the is­sues of love and mar­riage in Vic­to­rian era Eng­land.

Korean di­rec­tor Park So-young, who col­lab­o­rated with the orig­i­nal di­rec­tor Abigail An­der­son, said when she met the Bri­tish cre­ators of the play, she felt their love and re­spect for Austen.

“They were proud of this play which is faith­ful to the orig­i­nal novel. They chose to go two-handed be­cause they thought it was the most fit­ting the­atri­cal way to por­tray this vast ro­man­tic novel,” the di­rec­tor said.

Park said the roles are dis­trib­uted based on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Lizzy and Darcy among many dou­ble acts in the novel.

“Lizzy and Darcy can­not be played by one per­son, so A1 plays Lizzy and A2 Darcy. Lizzy has many con­ver­sa­tions with her sis­ter Jane, so A2 plays Jane. Thus Darcy’s friend and Jane’s love in­ter­est Bin­g­ley is per­formed by A1,” Park said. “So the roles are al­lot­ted as needed. I think such a dis­tri­bu­tion of roles with no gen­der bias is the be­gin­ning of gen­der-free cast­ing in theater.”

The tran­si­tion be­tween char­ac­ters is sub­tle. When A1 holds a hand­ker­chief, she is Mrs. Ben­net; with a hand fan she is Caro­line Bin­g­ley and she be­comes Mr. Bin­g­ley when she pulls open her skirt.

A2 wears a hat to por­tray ob­se­quious cler­gy­man Collins, while but­ton­ing up his coat rep­re­sents Jane’s dress. Such sim­ple yet sym­bolic props help the au­di­ences to dis­tin­guish each char­ac­ter with­out too much con­fu­sion.

Ac­tress Kim said it was dif­fer­ent from just play­ing mul­ti­ple sup­port­ing roles and a lead role as each char­ac­ter is alive, from be­gin­ning to end.

“Not a sin­gle char­ac­ter is func­tional, but each has their own story. The change be­tween each char­ac­ter is fast-paced and I have to turn into an­other char­ac­ter in a flash. It is phys­i­cally ex­treme too, but my co-star I can immerse our­selves into each other and the story more deeply in this two-han­der,” Kim said.

The stripped-down set is rem­i­nis­cent of a Ge­or­gian coun­try house, but dis­in­te­grated. It could be Long­bourn, where Mr. and Mrs. Ben­net live with their five daugh­ters; Nether­field, where Bin­g­ley moves in; or Pem­ber­ley, the lux­u­ri­ous manor of Darcy.

Start­ing with the fa­mous first line, “It is a truth uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged, that a sin­gle man in pos­ses­sion of a good for­tune, must be in want of a wife,” the 19th cen­tury novel still res­onates with mod­ern-day cus­toms of love and mar­riage.

Four dif­fer­ent mar­riages are de­scribed in the play and Austen as­serts that mar­riage should be based on love and mu­tual at­trac­tion, not by pres­sure in money or so­cial sta­tus.

“Pride and Prej­u­dice” is staged at the Chungmu Art Cen­ter in cen­tral Seoul through Oct. 20.

Dis­tri­bu­tion of roles with no gen­der bias is the be­gin­ning of gen­der-free cast­ing in theater.

Courtesy of Dal Com­pany

Kim Ji-hyun, left, as El­iz­a­beth Ben­net and Lee Dong-ha as Mr. Darcy in novel-turned-play “Pride and Prej­u­dice”

Kim Ji-hyun, right, as Charles Bin­g­ley

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Korea, Republic

© PressReader. All rights reserved.