The classic story of romance and family drama: two hundred years old and yet still well-loved, told many times by many artists without losing its popularity. This October Northern Stage hosted Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) – a vibrant and energizing retelling of Jane Austen’s most famous novel.
The show, written by Isobel McArthur and directed by Paul Brotherson, takes a fresh look at the story imprinted in our cultural consciousness and retells it with humour and wit that makes a viewer feel like a welcomed friend listening to the gossips.
The opening and ending of the show frames it as a story told not by the aristocracy, or from their perspective, but told by the servants of the Bennet family. People who are always in the background, making sure that great romance plots can happen in the first place, now tell their own version of events playing every role in an irreverent comedy with incorporated karaoke songs. The all-female cast of six talented actresses did a marvellous job; they played multiple characters during the show, but each one of them was played in a different way and with individual mannerisms, equally entertaining to watch. The stage set and costumes mixed the regency of era-inspired clothing with a modern aesthetic, making creating an anachronic fictional reality that suited the satirical tone of the performance.
“Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) is an incredibly entertaining and heartfelt show….It has all the wit of Austen’s writing with even more humour”
Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) fleshed out some of the characters that fade into the background in the original novel, like the younger Bennet sisters or Charlotte Lucas. The novel’s focus is on Elizabeth, her subjective perspective and what happens to her, but this approach would not work in a theatre setting which is an interesting difference to see. We get to see other characters moving around the stage and having their own little subplots in the scenes, having their own personality and interacting with each other in a much more explicit way than in Austen’s novel. This puts a valuable and welcomed spin on the narration, creating an impression that everyone has their own life and their own story where they are the main character, even if Elizabeth remains the character we focus on the most. I also particularly welcomed the production’s addition to Charlotte Lucas’s character – the scene when the audience finds out she has one-sided romantic feelings for her friend Elizabeth is intimate and melancholic. This added another dimension to her character and seeing her actions through that perspective leaves a little sting in my heart.
Overall, Pride and Prejudice (*sort of) is an incredibly entertaining and heartfelt show. It has all the wit of Austen’s writing with even more humour, but also knows when to slow down for sadder and more emotional scenes. It is a love letter to the original that shamelessly takes what it wants to tell its own version of the story.
Last modified: 27th October 2019