Can one really review any adaptation of Pride and Prejudice without some kind of variation on truths universally acknowledged? Probably, so I decided to use all of them in here so no one else has to.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all-women productions have been all the rage for a while, and Isobel McArthur’s adaptation Pride and Prejudice (Sort of) gleefully jumps on the bandwagon, with a six-strong cast of actresses playing the parts of Jane Austen’s long-forgotten maids. The heroines of Pride and Prejudice (Sort of) play their masters’ and mistresses’ parts while they have their backs turned.
Another truth universally acknowledged is the British, ahem, interest in issues of class. Yet you should expect no jokes on green baize doors from this comedy-cum-karaoke. In fact the class commentary remains on the fringes of the play’s queering of Austen, in which the most convincing romances are perhaps the ones between women. In particular, Jane and Lizzie’s sisterly bond is warmly portrayed by Meghan Tyler and Christina Gordon. Maids dip in and out of the story, swapping roles and costumes. Their role is to provide, as they put it, tea, and the clean beddings in which intrigues can be conducted, as well as praise and satire of their employers’ antics. They wear white dresses on which they put regency-style costumes to turn into one of Austen’s timeless creations.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Austen’s characters lend themselves marvellously to caricature. Christina Gordon’s rendering of Lady Catherine de Burgh as a kitsch parody of snobbishness is a case in point.
It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least since the 2008 series Lost in Austen) that Mrs Bennett may be irritating, but her husband is, to say the least, aloof. This production does away with him altogether by replacing him with an armchair to symbolise Mr Bennett’s hands-off parenting style. McArthur herself impressively juggles the roles of Mrs Bennett and Mr Darcy, something of a theatrical full split which must also be acknowledged, and accentuated the jarring differences between the two characters.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a well-timed song can do wonders. For an example of this see Meghan Tyler’s wry cover of ‘You’re So Vain’, addressed to eternally sullen Darcy. The play’s mingling of songs and energetic dialogues should appeal to musical and theatre fans alike. While waiting for true love to manifest, the Bennett sisters lounge about in their living room listening to ‘Deceptacon’.
Another truth, not universal, but one I would like to acknowledge, is that Hannah Jarret-Scott’s standout performance as both of the Bingley siblings would make me ride a horse in the countryside under a pouring rain.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that… Anyway, you get the idea. Erudite but never naively bookish, Pride and Prejudice (Sort of) revels in Austen’s evergreen caustic humour, turning the Regency comedy into a belter of a night out.
- By Isobel McArthur
- Directed by Paul Brotherson
- Designed by Ana Inés Jabares Pita
- Sound Designer/Musical Supervisor: Michael John MCarthy
- Lighting Designer: Simon Hayes
- Cast includes: Tori Burgess, Christina Gordon, Felixe Forde, Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Isobel McArthur, Meghan Tyler
- Bristol Old Vic