Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
It’s a real treat to revisit writer/director Isobel McArthur’s rambunctious retelling of Jane Austen’s best-loved novel. Since we last saw it in January 2020, a lot has happened – and I’m not referring to the pandemic. Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) has wowed the West End and bagged itself a well-deserved Olivier award. McArthur must be buzzing.
This adaptation is actually pretty faithful to the original. The set-up is intact: we have the Bennett family facing financial ruin, and Mrs Bennett (McArthur) desperately trying to marry off her five daughters. And the central romance is intact too: we have sparky, reckless Lizzy (Leah Jamieson), determined to marry for love or not at all – consequences be damned – and we have Darcy (McArthur again). Her portrayal of the enigmatic, uptight ‘hero’ is as exquisite as I remember. She nails his inarticulacy, highlighting his inability to express himself, rendering him sympathetic, despite his brusque manner.
The difference lies in the telling. The conceit is that five servants are dressing up, playing, showing us what they’ve observed in the houses where they work. Thus class barriers are broken down, and so is the gap between the 19th century gentry and the theatre-goers of the 21st. McArthur’s talent lies in unveiling the jokes, so that Austen’s satire – hidden from a modern audience behind bonnets and mannered language – is exposed to the light. Via karaoke and biting sarcasm.
Hannah Jarrett-Scott almost steals the show: she’s a natural clown, clearly relishing the twin roles of Caroline and Charles Bingley, but also flashing her acting chops in a nuanced depiction of Charlotte Lucas, repressing her feelings for Lizzy. Christina Gordon (as Jane, Wickham and Lady Catherine) and Tori Burgess (as Lydia, Mary and Mr Collins) are both excellent too. I’ve nothing negative to say.
Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) is at the Lyceum until November 5th, which seems appropriate for such a dazzling firecracker of a show.