Pride and Prejudice at the Wales Millennium Centre

As an English Literature graduate, and a huge theatre fan, I was more than a little excited when I found out Pride and Prejudice was coming to the Wales Millennium Centre.

I was also a little nervous. I love the Austen novel and have enjoyed many TV and film adaptations of it over the years (Colin Firth in a wet shirt anyone?) so I wondered how the story would translate on stage.

Those fears disappeared as this lively production swept us away to the world of the Bennet family and Mrs Bennet’s scarcely hidden ambitions to marry off her five daughters.

Seasoned actors Felicity Montagu and Olivier award winner Matthew Kelly were marvellous as the Bennet parents and set the comic tone of the production, which brought the wit of Austen’s writing and characterisation to life. Montagu is a brilliant choice for schemer and walking hyperbole Mrs Bennet, whose wild emotions and reactions led to many a laugh.

Tafline Steen made a lovely Lizzie fizzing with life, forthright opinions and a quick wit. Her knowing looks to the audience made us feel included. It was great to see Lizzie played with such enthusiastic charm.

Benjamin Dilloway was a good Mr Darcey playing the perfect snob at the outset but growing in compassion and self awareness as the play and its plot unfurled.

Another stand out was Steven Meo as Mr Collins, the simpering and snobbish clergyman so desperate to be accepted in higher social circles. His slapstick and comical take on Mr Collins added to the show’s light-hearted feel.

The clever revolving set was simple yet visually effective transporting us between the Bennet household, balls and Pemberley.

I enjoyed little touches such as the letters being delivered by the sender and the dance scenes in which so much of the flirting and verbal sparring happened.

Overall, this was a delightful production that proved Austen is as brilliant today as ever.

I’m looking forward to the same company bringing Jane Eyre to the Centre in the summer.

Did you see Pride and Prejudice during its time at the Wales Millennium Centre? If so, what did you think? 

Blogger note: I bought my ticket for the show and the centre was not aware I was reviewing the show.

My morning

This morning I almost lost it. It was 7.40am and I was trying to get the children ready for school and day nursery. My son was a darling, ready and waiting in 10 minutes. But my toddler was a different story.

She didn’t want to wee, wear clothes or shoes. She would have preferred to leave the house in her knickers and her Frozen pyjama top. And she made her views known in the best way she can at her age – a monumental tantrum.

I’m talking rolling on the floor, hitting and kicking me in the face and gnashing her teeth on her clothes as I tried to dress this tiny person filled with rage. She also smeared her snotty nose all over my work trousers.

After 27 minutes, she gave in and had a cuddle before agreeing on getting dressed. And 31 minutes later, we left the house late. I was sweaty and still wearing snot-stained clothes as I had no time to change.

I’ve now successfully dropped them both off to school and nursery and a day of work awaits.

And I’m shattered. So today I’ll be mainlining tea and chocolate. Sigh.

#timetotalk day – my experience of PND

Today is #timetotalk day so I have a confession – when my daughter was born I had postnatal depression (PND).

It’s not something I’ve talked about that openly. A few close family members and friends knew. I felt too ashamed, guilty and embarassed to admit it.

But over the last few years I have admired the growing number of people who have spoken openly about their mental health experiences so I thought I would share my story on #timetotalk day.

Firstly, my children are my life. I adore them and wouldn’t change them. They are gorgeous inside and out and I can only hope to be a mum who raises them to be kind, loving people who try their best and work to achieve what they want.

But that’s the cruelty of PND. I knew and felt all of this but I also felt desperately, desperately sad, alone and out of control.

It started creeping in when my husband went back to work. Suddenly I was juggling a toddler and a baby. I fed her myself, which meant I spent a lot of time glued to the sofa in the early days, which my toddler found frustrating. He had to learn to adapt from being an only child whose needs were our absolute focus to suddenly sharing our attention.

I worked hard to find activities we could do while I was feeding such as reading, sticker books and flash cards. But sometimes that’s not what he wanted to do.

(I should say I was lucky enough to have fantastic family support around me so relatives would come and take the toddler out or do the ironing to give me a hand.)

As a baby, my daughter had colic, something our firstborn hadn’t had. And it was awful. Sometimes I held her or wore her in a sling for 21 hours a day. We used colic relief drops and cuddled her constantly to relieve her discomfort. But it was distressing and exhausting. And honestly it felt as though it would never end.

I also turned 30 a few weeks after having my daughter. And I (selfishly) felt a little sad that I wasn’t looking fabulous and having a party with cocktails that I’d imagined I would be years before in my pre-mum world. Instead, I was a hormonal, exhausted wreck with the sore and wobbly body of a woman who had not long given birth.

I knew something was wrong within a few weeks of having her. I was tearful, angry and impatient. The slightest problem triggered tears. Mentally, I felt like a stretched elastic band that could snap at any point. I also had thoughts that made me feel as though it would be better not to be around any more.

But I didn’t seek help for a few months. It was only when these thoughts became more and more apparent that I decided I couldn’t take the strain any more and admitted I needed help.

Where I live we have a fantastic mental health support service for expectant and new mums, which means you can be seen swiftly. And they were marvellous.

As well as offering face to face appointments (and a support group should I have wished to attend) they spoke to me about medication. I explained that I had lost lots of the joy from my children. Honestly, I didn’t think I would recover. But I was adamant that I did not want tablets.

I remember one day having a conversation with a psychologist. I said I was worried I wouldn’t feel like me if I took medication. And she said: “But you don’t feel like you now, do you?”. She explained that it was a chemical imbalance making me feel that way and that needed addressing just like a medical problem. And her wise words won me around.

I felt so ashamed collecting the prescription. And the night before I was due to start the medication, I cried and cried and cried. I felt as though I’d failed.

But I took the tablets and within a few days I felt lighter. Smiles that had been missing for so long started appearing. My patience grew stronger. And the joy that children bring became more and more apparent.

Within weeks, I felt like my old self again. I was discharged from the new mum mental health service not long after with the reassurance of being able to see them again should I need to do so. That was a comfort, but luckily I was well enough not to need to see them again.

Recovering was incredible. I felt as though colour was filling what had been a colourless world. It took time but every day I felt that bit better and able to be the mum I wanted to be for my gorgeous boy and girl.

Two years on, I am so glad that I sought help to get well again. It’s an experience I look back on from time to time but it has made me so much stronger.

And now is the time that I feel able to talk about it more openly.

That’s why I’m going to run a 10K for the charity Mind who do so much awesome work to help people living with mental health issues and their loved ones. They also do a cracking job of reducing the stigma around mental illness.

So if you’re a mum or dad (or anyone for that matter) who is feeling like this, please, please seek help. Talk to someone. As hard as it may feel to do, it will make things better.

You can also talk to the Samaritans.

If you fancy showing your support for my story, please sponsor my 10K challenge for Mind here. Thank you!