The famous opening line, brooding looks, balls and a will-they-won’t they romance between a Mr. Darcy and Ms Bennet, I’m not proud to admit, was the extent of my knowledge of this much-loved story. I’d seen parts of tv and movie adaptions before, so I had a vague idea of what to expect when seeing this show. I was hoping that if there weren’t any fanatics like myself who decided to watch, then we could still play along too.
To begin, we are introduced to a group of servants who relay the story of Pride and Prejudice in an accessible way, which does not assume prior knowledge. Imagine my joy when the story was performed by a talented cast of six women who were whipping back and forth between characters and accents at breakneck speed. Then they cracked out the karaoke mics and I was hooked.
This is not any ordinary re-telling of Austen’s most well-known love story, oh no. It has the costumes, set design and theme of marriage vs love at its heart and yet the language, props and song choices are drawn from our time which works surprisingly well.
The characters truly come to life thanks to the writing of Isobel McArthur, whose straight-talking, f-bomb throwing women are granted a self-awareness to their parts, giving a modern twist that will have you laughing out loud. This adaptation is about taking the characters to the extreme and drawing on parallels that we can relate to in our own time. One of the most comical aspects comes from McArthur, who plays, both the emotional, overly interfering Mrs Bennett and the serious, reserved Mr Darcy, in a clever juxtaposition.
In fact, all of the performers deliver mischievous parallels, either as the musically gifted Christina Gordon’s love-sick Jane transforms into the intimidating Lady Catherine, or as Meghan Tyler imbues Elizabeth Bennett with a strong will that is tempered by a gentler vulnerability. Felixe Forde successfully contrasts two of the few male characters in the play, as creepy churchman Mr Collins and laddish George Wickham. Whilst Hannah Jarrett-Scott dazzles in the roles of the clueless Mr Bingley and the conceited Miss Bingley, effortlessly balancing the masculine and feminine with just a swish of her skirt. And of course, Tori Burgess playing the polar-opposite sisters, boy obsessed Lydia against the awkward Mary with an impressive range of facial expressions.
The plot flows well, taking the time to show the dynamics between characters, while also offering plenty of action to keep the audience focused. Emily Jane Boyle’s choreography, in particular, is to be commended as her guidance ensures the stupendous actresses deliver their comedy with expert timing.
Likewise, director, Paul Brotherston, has taken full advantage of the various set levels, designed by Ana Ines Iabres-Pita, so as to diversify this relatively static playground. Although most structural elements remain the same, the imagination is easily suspended with the clever use of props and lighting from Simon Haves, which help to convey the different ambiences.
For all the newcomers, rest assured, this production has done all the hard work for you. Keeping to the origins of the story but somehow packing in plenty of relatable jokes, the terrific energy exerted by the cast is easily matched by the audience reception of the audience. It is safe to say that I came away eager to finally dive into the Austen universe.
This production runs until 15th February at The Lyceum theatre in Edinburgh.
PHOTOS: Mihaela Bodlovic
GUEST REVIEWER: Steph Taylor