Review: Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort of)

Unless you’re an Austen enthusiast or a literature student, you may agree that although incredibly enjoyable, Pride and Prejudice is not necessarily an easy read. Over the years we’ve seen a number of adaptations for both the stage and screen but the question is, what exactly does a P&P adaptation need to make it stand out? We’ve had Colin Firth randomly but iconicly emerging from a lake, we’ve had modern retellings and we’ve even had zombie fighting Bennett sisters. Needless to say this story has been told hundreds of times so you may be asking, what makes Blood of the Young’s latest adaptation so different from the others?

We all know that P&P (Pride and Prejudice) is predominantly a story of love, but it’s also a story of class, gender and social divisions. While so many adaptations choose to focus on the elements of romance, this brand new production takes a look at some of the perhaps more important and more pressing topics raised such as gender inequality.

In the programme the show’s writer (and Mr Darcy), Isobel McArthur, discusses her decision to not only tell the tale from the eyes of six servant girls, but also the need “to create more opportunities for female performers to play a wider range of nuanced, interesting and varied roles in the theatre.” 

P&P is about the plight of five unmarried daughters whose futures solely depends on their ability to marry well. Although Austen’s novels may have been revolutionary for her time, we see the girls pitted against each other and their worth measure by their beauty. Yes they were literary heroes of their time, but still incredibly oppressed by the man’s world in which they lived. 

In this show we see the servant girls given the chance to play the roles of their employers and their “superiors” in an act of “doubly transgressive triumph” and I honestly cannot applaud this production enough.

Their voices are strong are strong, they’re confident and they’re incredibly empowering. They’re not afraid to call B.S and they’re incredibly encouraging for any women feeling less than her personal best. Of course we all see ourselves as a little bit Lizzy, but this show allows us to connect a little more with the other characters whether that’s the (hilariously) heartbroken Jane or the invisible Mary.

With oodles of wit, buckets of charm and a killer cast, this is quite possibly one of the funniest shows I’ve seen this year. Although set in the Austen era, this story and its characters feel modern and new as they fill the Bristol Old Vic with joy, laughter and brilliant karaoke skills. 

Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort of) will run at the Bristol Old Vic till Saturday 28th September and will then head out on a UK Tour. For more information or to book tickets please head to the Bristol Old Vic website. 

Review date: 12/09/2019
Cast at the performance I attended: Tori Burgess, Christina Gordon, Felixe Forde, Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Isobel McArthur and Meghan Tyler.

Images courtesy of Mihaela Bodlovic