Wandle Park offers ‘immersive’ theatre at the bandstand

Bandstand grandstanding: Chris Ranaldi is Mr Darcy and Megan Claridge is Elizabeth Bennet in CODA’s Pride and Prejudice. Pic: Michael Hall.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s beloved classic of wit and romance, the tale of Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy, is coming to a bandstand near you this summer, as CODA – the Croydon Operatic and Dramatic Association – once again perform outdoors in Wandle Park.

The sparkling new production, adapted for the stage by Jon Jory, marks the return of CODA’s summer production after two years out due to covid, and offers the ideal treat for a summer evening – with seating provided and refreshments available, and even the chance for the audience to indulge in a bit of “immersive theatre” with some Regency-period dressing up.

CODA is also offering a “pay what you can” performance, too, recognising the financially tough times many people are having at the moment.

The Pride and Prejudice story is probably familiar – a rich new neighbour is bound to provide a husband for one of the five Bennet sisters. But first impressions between independent-minded Elizabeth and the emotionally reserved Mr Darcy do not bode well for romance… Can love overcome pride and prejudice?

But it is the clipped, witty writing of Austen that the production brings out so well. With the cast in sumptuous Regency costumes, CODA is encouraging its audience to wear period fancy dress, too, with a small prize for best.

Pride and Prejudice will be performed in the round at the bandstand in Wandle Park from Wednesday July 27 to Saturday July 30. The Wednesday performance will be “pay what you can”.

The production is co-directed by Danielle Perrimon and Peter Bramwell, and stars Megan Claridge as Elizabeth Bennet and Chris Ranaldi as Mr Darcy.

“This is a story that whisks you away to spend an evening in polished society,” says Perrimon.

“We have dancing, dashing gentlemen, a formidable lady with a cane, and some of the wittiest and most romantic words ever written. All this performed in the beautiful surroundings of the park as the sun sets.”

CODA chairman Michael Hall says, “CODA strives to make theatre as accessible as possible in the borough.

“We are aware that the cost of tickets for even community theatre may put off those that are struggling financially at the moment, even as we ourselves face rising production costs. Our ‘pay what you can’ performance for Pride and Prejudice on Wednesday July 27 means that audience members can select their own ticket price from £1 upwards.

“However if attendees are able to pay slightly more than the standard price for a ticket, this would also be most welcome and help not only us to cover our costs, but also help other people access the joys of live theatre and this wonderful story.”

CODA, founded in 1943, is Croydon’s leading community theatre company, performing both musicals and plays to a highly professional standard. Pride and Prejudice comes after the covid-delayed productions of Little Women and Steel Magnolias at the CryerArts Centre in Carshalton. In the years prior to the pandemic, CODA have performed musicals at the Stanley Halls in Norwood and Fairfield Halls, such as Into The Woods, West Side Story and The Producers.

CODA’s previous summer productions of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance have all been performed in the round at Wandle Park’s bandstand, and have been exceptionally well-attended and received.

Pride and Prejudice runs from Wednesday July 27 to Saturday July 30 at the bandstand at Wandle Park, with evening performances at 7.30pm, and a matinee on the Saturday at 2.30pm.

Tickets are £14 full price and £13 concessions, and can be booked online at www.codashows.co.uk or by email at tickets@codashows.co.uk .

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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