Brett Harris has read the iconic English novel Pride & Prejudice twice since he was a youth, and he’s read it again recently in preparation to play Fitzwilliam Darcy, one of the novel’s lead characters.
Harris joins a cast of professional actors who will be performing Janet Munsil’s stage production of Jane Austin’s classic novel at the Chemainus Theatre from Feb. 17 to March 25, the kick off to the theatre’s 2017 season.
Pride & Prejudice was first published in 1813 and charts the emotional development of the protagonist, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennet who learns the error of making hasty judgements, and comes to appreciate the difference between the superficial and the essential.
Darcy is the wealthy owner of Pemberley, a large estate in Derbyshire, England, who first meets Lizzie at a ball where he slights her by refusing to dance with her, and by making demeaning remarks about her while she is within earshot.
Gradually, he becomes attracted to Lizzie, and later attempts to court her while, simultaneously, struggling against his continued feelings of superiority.
Pride & Prejudice continues to retain the fascination of modern readers and consistently appears near the top of the list of “most-loved books” among both literary scholars and the general public.
In fact, it has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, with more than 20 million copies sold.
Continuing interest in the book has resulted in a number of dramatic adaptations and an abundance of novels and stories imitating Austen’s memorable characters and scenes.
Harris, who has spent the better part of 24 of his 36 years on stage in numerous productions, said he has been researching the novel and studying the play’s script in preparation for his performance as Darcy at the Chemainus Theatre.
“Darcy is misunderstood and affected by society’s rules that you shouldn’t appear too emotional in public,” Harris said after a rehearsal.
“He’s not a gentleman in the beginning, but he changes into one and makes an effort to become a better person because he loves someone. Darcy is very kind and has a big heart, but it takes him some time to be able to show that. I enjoy playing the character from the beginning to the end of the play.”
Actor Yoshie Bancroft, who also has an extensive background in theatre covering 16 years, plays Lizzie in the production.
Lizzie is the second child in a family of five daughters.
Though the circumstances of the time and environment push her to seek a marriage of convenience for economic security, Lizzie, regarded by many as the most desirable and endearing of Austen’s heroines, wishes to marry for love.
Bancroft said it’s a “huge honour” to be chosen to play Lizzie.
“It’s tricky because people are very familiar with the story, so it’s a huge responsibility to play Lizzie in a way people enjoy,” she said.
“Lizzie is playful, intelligent and quick-witted person who has become a famous literary heroine that lots of people see themselves in, so it’s important that I present her well on stage. It takes a long time to remember all the lines, but I work hard in rehearsals every day.”
Tickets for Pride & Prejudice range from $29 to $72.
They can be purchased by calling the Chemainus Theatre’s box office at 1-800-565-7738, or go to email@example.com.