Who really made the world go round in Regency England? The servants – at least according to this charmingly silly adaptation of Jane Austen’s most popular novel.
Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) sees five maids playing dress up and telling the story of the Bennet girls, their run-ins with Bingley, Darcy, Collins and Wickham, and the universal truth of being in want of a wife.
In truth the conceit doesn’t really make much difference, and instead the cast mostly just get on with the job of an affectionate retelling of the story, mixing stupid jokes, physical humour, and songs from the Partridge Family, Divine Comedy, Pulp, and Candi Stanton, among others.
The all-female cast switch between the novel’s array of aristocrats, sometimes at impressive speed, with Lucy Gray playing both Bingley and his sister Caroline with some great slapstick interludes; Dannie Harris excelling as both the well-lubricated Mrs Bennet and the brooding Mr Darcy; and Megan Louise Wilson doing nice turns as the doughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the demure Jane Bennet.
The script, by co-director Isobel McArthur, is packed with gags, from Elizabeth (Emily Stonelake) having fags round the back by a Jane Aust-bin wheelie big to Harris’ Darcy posing in a picture frame as a roving portrait in his country manor – plus there’s a tower of Ferrero Rocher and Viennetta for dessert at some of the many balls.
As well as playfulness with the novel, there are also references to previous adaptations, including a nod to Colin Firth’s emergence from a lake with Darcy being repeatedly asked why he is so dry, along with some fresh satire on how much – or how little – has changed since the 19th century.
There are plenty of surprises, dozens of gags, and some great tunes. You’ll get most out of it if you know the story well, but there is plenty here for everyone to enjoy.
- Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, June 24, 2023.