Last Christmas, when Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris announced they had a production of Pride & Prejudice coming up in the autumn schedule, I was starting to glaze over before he said, “No, hang on… it’s something else.” And my word, Pride & Prejudice* (*Sort Of) really is something else.
While the bare bones of Jane Austen’s famous 1813 story of love and social climbing is still there, it’s merely the scaffolding that holds together this joyous, hilarious and heart-bursting all-female production written by the very talented Isobel McArthur (who also plays Mrs Bennett and Mr Darcy).
Soundtracked by karaoke renditions of pop gems (everything from Everyday I Write The Book by Elvis Costello to I Think I Love You by Voice of the Beehive, with a wonderfully appropriate rendition of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain in the middle), and decorated with glitter balls, disco lights, laundry baskets and a Vienetta, I truly can’t think of one thing to fault Pride & Prejudice* (*Sort Of) on. Not one. And I love to criticise things.
There is so much attention to detail here. The six female cast members each take on a range of characters from Austen’s classic story, and the ease with which they slip between chartacters is seamless. They are supported in their endeavours by an armchair adequately playing the useless Mr Bennett and a life-size plastic horse on wheels. Amazing.
I especially enjoyed Hannah Jarrett-Scott’s double performance as the buffoon Mr Bingley and his scheming sister Caroline, who becomes so monstrous that she’s an absolute joy to watch. While Christina Gordon is exemplary as both mild-mannered Jane Bennett and the gargoyle-ish Lady (in red) Catherine de Bourgh: mother of Mr Darcy and, of course, Chris de Burgh.
Meghan Tyler is clearly having a hoot as wild-eyed Elizabeth Bennett, singing and stomping her way through unwanted proposals, while poor sister Mary (Tori Burgess) gets the sharp end of the stick as the overlooked and underrated one. And don’t forget Felixe Forde, who shines as the contemptuous Mr Wickham, intent on ruining the reputation of young girls everywhere until Mr Darcy puts him in his place.
Pride & Prejudice* (*Sort Of) is so, so, so much fun. Honestly, please go to see it. I have seen so many Pride & Prejudice productions (and read the book) over the years - including the faithful BBC adaptation with Colin Firth, the Bridget Jones films with Colin Firth and the always joyous Austentatious improv shows (without Colin Firth), but Pride & Prejudice* (*Sort Of) puts a brand new spin on the story, whirls it into the 21st Century and I can’t wait to see it again.
Pride & Prejudice* (*Sort Of) is performed at Bristol Old Vic until 28 September. Click here for more information and to book tickets.