I’ve always aspired to be a writer - there are many half written and badly researched “plays” from my early teen years in my mother’s house that I need to recover to prevent their use as blackmail material… In 2019, my play The Cabin on Deer Hill was performed at The Playhouse Theatre in Northampton, and is currently being turned into a short film.
So why adapt Pride and Prejudice? What’s the appeal to a story teller to tell someone else’s story? I remember being sat in my Year 10 English class, when the teacher opened the book for the first time - she read the first line “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” and then stopped. Not only was this a woman writing, but she was funny, and in what felt like a very modern way, in a very old book. For a class full of girls who’d upto this point only studied stuffy male writers, this was a revelation. We slowly made our way through the book, falling in love with characters just as Austen had intended us to, and then the twists came and took us all by surprise. What I wouldn’t give to read it again without knowing what was coming!
Lockdown has given me a few opportunities that I didn’t see coming however - and all in the audio drama category. Having been part of a few audio productions that have been produced during lockdown, including A Summer of Spring, I know that you can achieve quite a lot with a recording device and a group video call, so I allowed myself the time to give adapting a book for a radio performance a go.
My goal, with this adaptation, was to have fun. I love Lizzy’s sense of humour, and Mr Darcy is pretty funny when he relaxes too, but sometimes the pomp and poshness of it all overpowers the laughs. Humans don’t talk as if every word that leaves their mouth is a carefully considered monologue! The real beauty of Jane Austen’s work is that her characters are so brilliantly human - they’re flawed, they make mistakes, and the heroes are the ones who recognise those mistakes and seek change - a lesson I’m sure we could all use from time to time.
So where do you start when adapting something like this? I re-read the book with a highlighter in hand (I have at least 3 versions, don’t hate me book lovers!) and found the key dialogue and the key elements I wanted to include. Then I immersed myself in other adaptations (I don’t really need an excuse to watch the 1995 BBC adaptation though…) before sitting down to write my script. Once it was in relatively good shape, Kate and Richard kindly arranged a read through with their amazing pool of talented actors, then it was back to the drawing board to remove some scenes, and replace those that were too much missed. Cutting anything was difficult, and I have physically had to take myself away from copies of the book and script so I don’t tinker with it any further!
We have put together a truly stunning cast of actors, and we’re a few weeks into rehearsals/recording now - it’s an honest delight to hear them bring these characters to life. I hope you all enjoy listening to the episodes as much as I’ve loved creating them!