“That’s my brooch you THIEVING BITCH” screams Lydia Bennett as she hurls herself across the stage at her sister Kitty.
Needless to say, this is not Pride and Prejudice as you know it.
Tron Theatre Company and Blood of the Young have – completely successfully – collided regency England with modern day (sense and) sensibilities.* Six women brilliantly multi-role, juggling the original protagonists along with domestic servants who shine a new light on Jane Austen’s most popular novel.
All the basic plot is there, and with such a strong foundation, Pride and Prejudice (Sort Of) really run with it as far as possible. The script is genius – and hilarious in its ingenuity. There’s an undeniable talent in Isobel McArthur, who both writes and stars in the production. Her Mr Darcy is perfectly awkward. I love it.
The servant roles quite literally usher the plot along, and are instrumental where you wouldn’t have thought it. When Elizabeth Bennett ventures out into the rain (complete in a bright yellow mac over of her empire-waist regency dress), a maid follows her across the stage with a spray bottle, lightly dousing her to imitate the rain. When Lizzie reads the first line of Darcy’s letter but promptly crumples and chucks it across the room, a maid picks it up, flattens it out and hands it back to her.
It’s helpful if you know the book – or at the very least, the BBC adaptation – but it’s by no means imperative. There’s a single gag that’s reliant on it: the servants express surprise at Darcy arriving at Pemberly “bone dry?!”, which guarantees a good giggle from the audience.
But it’s the mash-up of modern and parody elements that truly make this a first-rate production. Solo cups and karaoke machines in the middle of a regency ball. Mrs Bennett telling her hovering daughters to fuck off. Lady Catherine De Burgh suddenly appearing in a black-out and clap of thunder, in full bustle, ruffles… and Kardashian sunglasses. Mr Bennett is also played by a broadsheet newspaper propped up on a wingback armchair, which provides opportunity for endless jokes.
There’s something incredibly refreshing about six women owning the stage from beginning to end, portraying women (and men) at every stage of life, at every level of class and privilege. The servants are often completely unnoticed, but it’s a touching, human point made when some of them clearly have an established relationship with the Bennett sisters. Plot ushers they may be, but they’re people too.
The talent of this cast is wonderful. The pure range from Hannah Jarrett-Scott is enough to leave me thinking about this production for days; her characters include the reserved Charlotte Lucas (given a brilliant pining-for-my-best-friend subplot), the rah-rah Oxbridge Charles Bingley, and his aloof, hoity-toity sister Caroline. Saying that her characters are given the best lines would be doing Jarrett-Scott a disservice.
I’ve said this in previous reviews, but the question I ask myself before I give five stars is “could anything have been better?”. This wasn’t perfect. The singing was a tad weak in places, and it was rustic, with that rough-and-ready feel that only comes with summer shows taken on tour.
But honestly? I don’t think it could have been better. I didn’t stop grinning the entire time. I laughed out loud more than I have in months. My heart physically hurt from all the fangirling over the constipated Mr Darcy and the truly stubborn Elizabeth Bennett – even when Lizzie stands on a beer crate to sing “You’re so Vain” at her new acquaintance.
It’s just downright funny. It’s heart-breaking and heart-mending in the space of a few hours. But most importantly, it’s a rom com – and so is the original. McArthur’s production captures everything that Austen’s book has too. It reminds me why I love it so. So job done. Five stars. I’ll fight you on it.
*ba-dum-tsch. Please forgive me.