Review: Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of), at Bristol Old Vic

*disclaimer: I was given free tickets to Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) at Bristol Old Vic in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)

“modern adaptations don’t get much better than this”

Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) was a romping riotous fun piece of theatre that told a story so many know and love from a completely different angle, with a wonderfully fresh modern twist, and I loved it. The show seems to take on similar vibes to that of pop-musical hit Six in that six female leads tell a well-known story from a different perspective – the perspective that was often hidden.

The servants and maids of the characters in this beloved Austen classic take the audience on nothing short of a hilarious and insightful journey, bring yet another unique take on Pride and Prejudice – this time without the zombies.

This all-female cast are a delight to watch and the way they switch between roles, sometimes seamlessly, sometimes not, makes it all the funnier to watch. I find comedy on stage my least appealing genre as it is so hard to get right, particularly if you want to get every audience member laughing, but Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) hits the nail on the head as there wasn’t a dry in the house from belly-laughing, I can assure you of that.

The cast of Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)
Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

I’m not going to go into the story of Pride and Prejudice, your GCSE English teacher already did that for you, but the way the narrative was carried out was brilliantly entertaining, with a few twists. The modern adaptation mainly extended to the language used; with blasphemy throughout, which always makes for a huge roar of laughs, to its downright blunt and British humour, this show gets a lot right. Modern adaptations don’t get much better than this, as nothing is lost in Austen’s classic – Jane is as endearing as ever, Elizabeth as rebellious and Darcy as robust, but situations and narratives are really brought up to date, making this an enjoyable performance for all audiences.

The slight hint that Charlotte was in love with Elizabeth was touching, humorous in its execution, and contributed to the slight modernity of the production. On the other end of the scale, Mrs Bennett getting totally over the top drunk and making Jane sing karaoke with mascara running down her face was not so touching, more hilariously funny – and somewhat relatable. We won’t go into that one.

Christina Gordon in Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)
Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

The set barely changed, save for a few movements of sofas, tables and other props, leaving the set to mainly be the inside of one glamorous house, which alternated between the Bennett’s, Mr Darcy’s, Mr Bingley’s and the multiple dances that took place. The main house set was exquisite, with glittering chandeliers and an impressively looking staircase. The lighting was subtly effective, particularly when at Mr Darcy’s home and to demonstrate Charlotte’s loneliness after she marries Mr Collins.

The all-female cast consisted of Tori Burgess as Lydia / Mary / Anne / Mr Gardiner, Christina Gordon as Jane / Lady Catherine / Clara, Felixe Forde as Kitty / Maisie / George Wickham / Mr Collins / Mrs Gardiner, Hannah Jarrett-Scott as Mr Bingley / Tillie / Charlotte Lucas / Miss Bingley, Isobel Macarthur as Mrs Bennett / Mr Darcy / Flo, and Meghan Tyler as Elizabeth / Effie. As you can see, all six women played a number of roles, meaning the pace was never slowed nor dull and instead was always engaging.

The cast of Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)
Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

In a number of roles, Hannah Jarrett-Scott gave a standout performance from me. From the very beginning as maid Tillie, she caught my eye and she gave faultless performances in all her roles. As maid Tillie she was quick witted, interacted with the audience and eased the audience into the style of this unique production, as Mr Bingley she was a posh bumbling fool: lovable and engaging in equal measure, as Miss Bingley she was pompous and owned the stage like none other and as Charlotte Lucas she was quiet yet effective. A true star performer and a joy to watch in every role.

Isobel Macarthur as Mrs Bennett and Mr Darcy gave also excellent performances in both roles. The fact that it took me so long to realise Isobel was playing both parts only demonstrates how brilliant she was in both, and how rounded she made both her characters. She had the audience in the palm of her hand because either as hypochondriac Mrs Bennett or awkward and blunt Mr Darcy, she had us all laughing.

Isobel Macarthur in Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)
Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

As our leading lady, Meghan Tyler gives an excellent performance as bold and rebellious Elizabeth. I could strangely see elements of Kiera Knightley in her, and while she had less memorable moments than either Hannah or Isobel, she gives a well-rounded and heart-warming performance that has the audience experiencing her journey with her – laughing when necessary, feeling empathetic when necessary, and even helping her sing a line or too during her number.

Christina Gordon gives a good performance as Jane, but my issue here is with the character. The phrase “plain Jane” comes to mind when I think about this one too much, and I truly believe that Christina did the best she had with the character she was given. Jane is softer than her feisty older sister, and personally less interesting to follow than her spirited youngers. However, Christina certainly comes into her own for her portrayal of Lady Catherine, bringing much to this character.

As both sisters Mary and Lydia, Tori Burgess does an excellent job of flitting between the two sisters who couldn’t be more different. As the maid she is also endearing and she is a joy to watch on stage. In a number of roles Felixe Forde is certainly talented, but somehow seems outshined by her other cast members. In her professional debut, Felixe doesn’t have the natural comedy that some of her co-stars have, but I don’t doubt that this will come in time. A good performance in a number of roles, with Mrs Gardiner being her strongest for me.

The cast of Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)
Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

The karaoke vibe of the show, where singers sang well known hits with microphones was a great touch as it made the show that bit more colloquial and entertaining. The whipping out of microphones at unexpected moments made the show more modern, relatable and funny.

With writing by Isobel Macarthur and direction from Paul Brotherston, modern adaptations don’t get much better than this.

I struggle to fault this production as it certainly in succeeded in both making the audience laugh with a modern adaptation, and it still told the well-known Austen classic to the audience. From the word go I was similing from ear to ear, and I look forward to seeing what this theatre company has to offer in the future.

Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) runs at Bristol Old Vic until 28 September. You can buy tickets here. From £7.50 Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort of) then tours to Edinburgh, Birmingham, Southampton and Oxford on a 2019 UK Tour.


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