Criterion Theatre (venue)
07 November 2021 (released)
08 November 2021
‘If you can do Austen for Glasgow audiences then you can do anything.’ At least that’s what Isobel McArthur was told after being commissioned to adapt Pride and Prejudice for the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. But given the many ways in which Austen has been adapted for stage, screen and beyond, it’s really no surprise that this joyous, heartfelt romp hits the mark. They’re still wearing long white Regency frocks but there is Irn Bru, a huge pile of Ferrero Rocher and classic karaoke numbers including ‘You’re so Vain’ at the ball where Elizabeth and Darcy first meet.
Following a National Tour then lockdown, the West End Transfer has retained a down to earth playfulness, a rough and ready charm that show-cases the five female actors who play all the parts with whistle-stop costume and character changes. Writer McArthur is superbly funny as Mrs Bennet, desperate to marry off her daughters and strangely convincing as the brooding Darcy. It’s a fine line between the ridiculous and the very human which she treads with comic precision. Hannah Jarrett Scott plays both Charles Bingley and his sister with laugh out loud brilliance whilst managing to illicit genuine pathos as Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte who is secretly in love with her.
Designer Ana Ines Jabares-Pita (stage and costume) clearly had a lot of fun with the costumes. The relaxed feel, with high collared soldiers jackets flung over white dresses belies the challenges of quick changes and multiple characters. Costume design is integral to the comedy, a particular highlight, the oversized, red bonnet and rigid skirt of Christina Gordon’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh; a deliciously Wicked Witch inspired characterisation. The music is superbly silly, with Elizabeth Bennett being invited to sing her cousin Chris de Burgh’s greatest hit, ‘Lady in Red’ when she goes to visit.
As well as writing and performing, McArthur co-directs with Simon Harvey. They have successfully united Austen’s original satire with a very contemporary bite. One moment mocking Austen’s avoidance of the Napoleonic Wars going on at the time, the next referencing Colin Firth’s famous wet shirt moment from the 1995 film adaptation. Although the energy occasional dips during moments of narrative exposition the tight ensemble keeps the show on its toes and there are touches of brilliance such as Mr Bennett played by an arm-chair and outspread newspaper (turned up-stage). When Mrs Bennett pleads with him to say something to her disappointing daughters, you are almost willing the chair to speak.
There really is no weak link in production or cast. It’s a true ensemble with an irrepressible creativity that looks set to pull in the festive crowds.