Review: Pride And Prejudice The Panto Is Two Classics In One
Pride and Prejudice the panto, throwing together a favourite British tradition with one of our best loved English classics — inspired or silly? Actually this production, by young and inventive company By Jove, is intelligent and hilarious. It works on both levels, as all good comedies should.
Like Cinderella, Jane Austen’s tale is about finding a husband for not just one miserable girl, but five of them. Panto dame Mrs Bennet (James Walker-Black), is the mother whose love has reached smothering proportions, as she literally shoves her daughters in her voluminous bosom and wails every time the word marriage is said. We have to tell her to “calm down Mrs Bennet!”.
Masterminding matchmaking is fairy godmother Austen, played with bubbly charisma by Freya Evans. Amusingly, she’s not entirely in control of her own plot and when the actor playing Bingley fails to show up, she’s forced to get a broom to stand in. Ventriloquising the part of the literally wooden Bingley, her bumbling romantic lead is one of the standout performances of the night. Shereen Roushbaiani manages to be the mousy Mary, as well as the silly Lydia and sister Kitty, abandoning herself into their skittish personas which here are puppets.
There’s a lot of fun and games, as you’d hope with panto, but drawing on the novel’s legacy. There’s a delightfully drawn out wet shirt scene where Darcy gets soaked in progressively bigger buckets of water (it would have been even funnier with more water!) and a Blind Date sketch where an ironically earnest and period-dress Lizzie must ask her dates (one of whom was our actual date dragged on as 'volunteer' — if he’s reading this, thanks for being a good sport) what they’d stuff her with if she was a turkey. This humiliation of Lizzie was part of the night’s subtly feminist perspective. Why is the only hope for the girls’ happiness in this story, marriage? Starry eyed Jane's dance with her broom husband was another example of how this point was made in good spirit.
We’d only caveat it could have been edited a bit. An appearance by Dickens is meant to signify the panto villain and we can see why they want to keep that tradition up, but it convolutes Austen’s already packed storyline. Fun, festive stuff, with enough of a literary and feminist twist to offer something new for grown up audiences — it’s top of the panto pops.
Last Updated 14 December 2015