Review: Pride and Prejudice (*sort of). Bristol Old Vic
It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a single novel by Jane Austen must be in want of a play. And what a play. Isobel McArthur’s Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) deconstructs Jane Austen’s novel and reinvents it as a 21st century feminist send up and celebration of the author’s famous take on the fate of the five daughters of Mr and Mrs Bennet. In particular, the lot of opinionated Elizabeth and beautiful Jane as they struggle to find love and most importantly financial security in turn of the century Georgian England where women had few if any legal rights.
Directed by the playwright and Simon Harvey the riotous musical knock-about comedy takes all the themes and action from Jane Austen’s novel and gives them a blast of realism. No reverential treatment as seen by recent TV and film adaptations – but instead the script takes our modern thoughts about the insanity of social norms of the time and sends them up in a way that is both affectionate and extremely funny – keeping all the famous lines.
A cast of five fought over microphones, men and money as the publicity suggests in a fast-moving production full of gags, saucy comments, costume changes and Karaoke – which was the driving spirit of the show as we all like a good song and a knees up. Opening with the servants who break the fourth wall by dusting around the audience and breaking into Elvis Costello’s Everyday I Write The Book and reminding us that it was the servants who are largely unseen in romantic novels but have all viewed all the leading characters naked.
Dannie Harris as a desperate Essex housewife gave Mrs Bennet a wonderfully course ruthlessness while being a passably handsome and aloof Mr Darcie. Her husband the absent Mr Bennet was silently played by an open newspaper while their five daughters are played by the cast. Megan Louise Wilson was beautiful Jane and the terrifying Lady Catherine de Bourgh dressed in a symphony of crimson taffeta.
Sharp tongued hero Elizabeth Bennet was given a Nessa-esque (from Gavin and Stacey) tone by the fabulous Emmy Stonelake as she said all the things that readers of the novel think out loud. Unsung and often side-lined Mary Bennet was given a starring role by Leah Jamieson with her rendition of Candi Staton’s Young Hearts Run Free in complete contrast to her brilliant portrayal of the tediously dull Mr Collins.
Pragmatic Charlotte Lucas who gets hitched to tedious Mr Collins (illustrating one unattractive option for single women of the time) was given credibility by Lucy Gray who doubled up as the handsome Bingley introduced with Sade’s Smooth Operator.
With so much doubling and trebling of Austen’s many characters it pays to have at least an approximate understanding of the novel or its many screen adaptions although if you’ve never come across the story, it still makes sense as a chaotic rom com with its eventual happy ending – rewarded by a standing ovation by the matinee audience. Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) is that rare theatrical treat – a truth universally acknowledged – that a brilliant cast, exception writing and a classic novel can combine to send the audience home with joy in their hearts.
The play runs to Saturday, 20th May, 2023, nightly at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.
Tickets and info at https://bristololdvic.org.uk/
Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) continues to tour. For dates including Exeter in June see: https://prideandprejudicesortof.com/uk-tour
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