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Review: ‘Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of)’

Photo: Matt Crockett

Podcast Editor Matthew Seaman reviews “Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of)”.

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend the press night of “Pride and Prejudice* (Sort Of*)” at London’s worn but welcoming Criterion Theatre, the perfect setting for this (almost) period piece. With the likes of Stephen Fry, Toby Jones and Sheridan Smith occupying the intimate auditorium, it is evident that this is theatre of a high standard.

With a hint of Scottish-ness and frequent digressions into karaoke, think “Six” meets Lee Hall’s “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour”, with a sprinkling of “The Play That Goes Wrong”. Evidently, it was received as well as the aforementioned. The audience, instantly onside, offered constant adoration and support. The fourth wall was imperceptible – to be expected from a Brechtian piece. Clearly, this receipt transcended to the press too, with “The Guardian”, “The Independent” and “The Telegraph” all awarding four or five stars. The play has already announced an extension to its West End run – there is no doubt it’s a hit.

Photo: Matt Crockett

Isobel McArthur’s “Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of)” is an, at-times, slapstick re-telling of Jane Austin’s timeless novel. With five brilliant female actors multi-rolling, and often passing around microphones to break into song, it certainly is a fun night out. One, in my opinion, that is marketed towards two types of clientele. First, those who are fans of the original text, and seek an unexpected and comical reconstruction. And second, those who predominantly enjoy the security of traditional theatre, who may take pleasure in the naughty sense of outrage evoked by hearing the ‘f-word’ in a 19th century context. The latter could be spotted roaring with laughter at a Tesco carrier bag being brought on stage, or Wagon Wheels being served at a ball. Don’t get me wrong, there are chuckles to be had for everyone, but I found many of the gags drawn-out, and their effects short-lived, and at times, galling.

That said, I was clearly in the minority. Tonally, the play showed little deviation throughout, but the audience’s enjoyment kept it alive and dynamic. On occasion, I turned around to gage Stephen Fry’s reaction. He wasn’t giving much away, but his Tweet last night spoke for itself:

The cast are stupendous, and undertake a marathon in delivering this two-and-a-half hour show. Hannah Jarrett-Scott gives a stand-out performance, with not only brilliant comic nuance and a polished performance, but also a beautiful singing voice. Her variety of characters are all hilarious. Additionally, Meghan Tyler makes for a uniquely sarcastic “Liz”, Christina Gordon shines as a tender Jane Bennet, and Tori Burgess is a pocket-rocket of joy throughout. Similarly, McArthur, the writer, goes down a storm as Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Bennett. The highlight, for me, can only be the opening number, a rendition of Elvis Costello’s “Everyday I Write The Book”, an apt lively start for these five formidable women.

Photo: Matt Crockett

The relevance of the Scottish theme lacks clarity: “Irn Bru” was served to guests at the press night, and is also included as a prop on-stage. As far as I can tell, this is purely because a couple of the cast members are from Scotland. It is still a nice touch – as was the wedding cake and champagne, served after the bows. McArthur suggests that we would be celebrating the marriage we had just witnessed in the play, but I think we all knew that they would be celebrating their five-star success of a press night first and foremost.

“Pride and Prejudice* (Sort Of*)” isn’t everyone’s cup of Irn Bru, but it certainly is a clever concept that will run. It is currently booking until April 2022, and tickets can be purchased here.

Podcast Editor and Culture Writer for Roar News.

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