Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) @ Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
A memorable and proudly feminist retelling of the novel, with plenty of in-jokes that Jane Austen aficionados will appreciate
Writer Isobel McArthur brings Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (first published in 1813) singing and dancing into the twenty-first century. McArthur also acts in this all-female production – she plays Mrs Bennett, who wants to see her daughters married off before it’s too late, but also performs as the seemingly cold and loveless Mr Darcy. In fact, all six of the actors take on numerous roles over the course of the show.
The first act is a lot of fun, as we get to know the memorable cast of characters, from Elizabeth Bennett (Meghan Tyler) to Charlotte Lucas (Hannah Jarrett-Scott), who seems to have a thing for Liz. It’s a delight to see these women, dressed in regency clothing, sing and dance along to modern pop songs. It's a bizarre clash that somehow works. By having the female actors portray men – and not trying to conceal this fact – the play highlights the inherent performativity of all gender roles. Crude jokes and intelligent writing come together to create the perfect mix of silly and serious.
In fact, it’s only in the second act that the riotous proceedings slow down to a more melancholy tone, but an upbeat conclusion makes up for this. This is Austen, after all, so it’s hardly a spoiler to say that there are marriages aplenty. Designer Ana Inés Jabares-Pita has done great work with the stage design: the elegant white staircase and chandeliers go well with the coloured light bulbs strewn across the stage. Good use is made of audience interaction and breaking of the fourth wall – enough to be engaging but not enough to become annoying. And although the focus is naturally on Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, the other characters are fun as well.
Mary (Tori Burgess) just wants to sing, but she is mercilessly sidelined and ignored by her mother. There are plenty of in-jokes that Austen aficionados will appreciate, but this is a production which is also accessible to newcomers to the source material. This is a memorable, unabashedly feminist evening’s entertainment and even the sourest of Mr Darcys will find themselves singing along by the end.
Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of), Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until 15 Feb then touring the UK until April 2020