Emma reviews this modern theatrical interpretation of the classic novel.
Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre recently hosted the production of Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of). Written and directed by Isobel McArthur, it is a comical reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s classic 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice. Its modernity and wit make it thoroughly entertaining viewing, for those both familiar and unfamiliar with Austen’s original narrative.
Portrayed from the perspective of the servants, this play exposes the absurdity of Austen’s era by including elements of modern society in the plot line, such as iron bru, Tesco bags for life, and a Pringles tube, creating a parallel between two infinitely contrasting worlds. This not only adds a sense of relatability, but also enhances its charming wit. The use of expletives further connects the performance to the modern day, thus making characters such as Elizabeth Bennett seem much less out of reach if one were to desire her love story, compared to Austen’s novel, where “to be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love”.
With only five actors, each takes on several roles, having to perform swift costume changes and highlighting their capabilities, as each character is a stark contrast to the previous. Isobel McArthur not only wrote and directed the play, but she also acts as both Mrs Bennett and Mr Darcy, with the perfect amount of comedy surrounding the former (as a mother desperate to marry her daughters off to rich men), and mysterious composure about the latter. Mr Bennett is portrayed mute in a backwards facing chair with a newspaper, which only enhances Mrs Bennett’s character as she becomes increasingly frustrated by his lack of involvement, made even more witty as it is clear that this chair is empty. Hannah Jarrett-Scott plays numerous roles; however, her portrayal of Charles Bingley is the most outstanding, reinterpreting his character to embody the modern teenage male, swaggering and grunting, making for an extremely amusing and captivating watch.
Further reinforcing the modernity of the performance is the addition of karaoke, using well known songs such as You’re So Vain (of which Mr Darcy is the subject), and Holding Out for a Hero, to explore the themes presented in the novel comedically.
The stage is elegantly set, utilising a winding staircase to give the performance depth, and allowing the actors to embody their characters, with Lady Catherine de Bourgh in particular using its height almost as a metaphor for her societal influence. Audience interaction is key to allowing us to feel connected to the performance and involved in a previously untouchable story.
The great loves depicted in Austen’s novel are upheld, that of Bingley and Jane being as sickly sweet as ever, whilst Elizabeth and Darcy’s – though initially mocked through the comical elements of the play – eventually reaches sincerity, allowing the original story to be honoured.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend going to see Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) – its transformation of one of the most famous storylines into a musical comedy, placed precisely between improvised chaos and careful composition, is simply nothing short of perfection.