PRIDE & PREJUDICE* (*SORT OF)
The REP, Birmingham, Tuesday 15th October, 2019
A sextet of servants narrates and performs Jane Austen’s most celebrated story in Isobel McArthur’s irreverent adaptation. People expecting historical accuracy and verbatim enactments will be disappointed. Everyone else will be delighted by this consistently hilarious reimagining of the quintessential romantic novel. Riddled with anachronisms and with heightened theatricality, the script adheres to the storyline but swaps Austen’s wry observations and commentary with coarse humour and clever silliness. Oh, and there’s songs in it too, karaoke versions of pop standards that are entirely apt to the scenes in which they feature and are delightful without exception. Elizabeth singing You’re So Vain after a run-in with Mr Darcy, for example, or the dastardly Wickham’s You’re Just Too Good To Be True, sung to Elizabeth while her sisters are backing dancers… The whole thing is a joy from start to finish.
The entirely female cast play all the parts, often with quick changes, and it’s impossible to pick out a favourite. There is so much to enjoy in the comedic playing: Christina Gordon’s haughty Lady Catherine, Hannah Jarrett-Scott’s blokey Mr Bingley (doubling as his bitchy sister), Felixe Forde’s pouting, posturing Wickham, Tori Burgess’s put-upon, oddball Mary… Isobel McArthur herself is a hoot as the hypochondriac Mrs Bennett, puffing away on an inhaler, and is suitably repressed and pompous as the infamous ‘mard-arse’ Mr Darcy, while Meghan Tyler’s Elizabeth is spirited and hard-drinking…
Director Paul Brotherston gives his versatile cast plenty of comic business and keeps the action fast-paced with some clever and inventive theatrics. The timing is impeccable and the script is snappy, and while it is true to the plot, it shows that a well-placed swearword can bring the house down. Somehow, Jane Austen asserts herself and the emotional impact of her love story comes through intact, despite the profanity and the mucking around.
Above all, it’s a right good laugh. A thoroughly entertaining, camptastic piece, impressively performed by a pack of very funny women, this is the best version of Pride and Prejudice since the story was infested with zombies.