York Theatre Royal – until 14th October. Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
York Theatre Royal and Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company present Pride and Prejudice, adapted by the comedian Sara Pascoe, based on the novel by Jane Austen.
Pascoe puts a new spin on this classic and well loved story basically about matchmaking, by using a play-in-a-play hypothesis. We are interrupted throughout and bought back to the present day by the actors stepping out of character by becoming, a school teacher discussing such things as the heteronormative nature of the book, I had to look that one up!!, zombies, making reference to the recent film, a director with script in hand, discussing the plot and character motivations and a couple of editors discussing the filmed scenes, all whilst embarking on an affair .
Set within a gilded cage, the story mostly follows the traditional path as we see the desperate Mrs Bennet (played wonderfully by Kerry Peers) attempting to marry off her five daughters, who have to marry in order to avoid poverty. We get to meet the long suffering Mr Bennet (Adrian Irvine) and of course Elizabeth (Bethan Mary-James), as well as Mr Collins ( Matthew Romain) and Mr Darcy (Matt Whitchurch). Everything is played out within the cage, the scene changes from sitting room to ballroom in the boundaries of the bars, all without fuss. To pad out the ballrooms scenes mannequins are used, to see them dancing is a sight to behold, inspired!!
Rachel Partington, in her professional stage debut was excellent, with her comedic timing, portraying Mary in cloud cuckoo land that she seems to live in, obsessed with envelopes. She was the stand out performer for me, dominating most of the scenes she was in, a star in the making for sure. Alice Haig, as Kitty, and Olivia Onyehara as Lydia, also performed well with their strong and exuberant portrayals of the younger sisters.
For me Mr Darcy came across as too indifferent and he wasn’t involved enough, I would have liked to see him smouldering more and have more stage time, which I thought was a bit lacking. There were some tender moments and connection with Darcy and Elizabeth, but I wanted more, old romantic that I am. We were teased about the lake and wet shirt, which we have come to associate with Pride and Prejudice, and I suppose it sort of delivered, but with a twist.
All the cast worked hard and several of the actors had various roles. I did not really like the mixing of a play-in-a-play in this instance, especially the editing sections, what them having an affair has got to do with the show I have no idea. The play is certainly humorous and I laughed out loud, and I suppose different than what I expected, but the essence is still there. I may just now have to hunt out a copy of the series and watch it all over again.