dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Jane Austen classic given a touch of bubbly
Blood of the Young Theatre Company take the Jane Austen classic and shake it up in this riotous comedy Pride & Prejudice (*sort of). While the original story is still clearly there and set within its period, the Glasgow-based team would be the first to admit they've taken quite a few liberties with it.
Cu,rrently at Birmingham Repertory Theatre's main house, writer Isobel McArthur's quick-witted dialogue gives each of Austen's familiar characters a new dimension. Mrs Bennett is not just a fussing and fretful mother hen, she's also foul-mouthed and liable to turn to drink. Darcy isn't simply cold and awkward he's downright impossible and Elizabeth Bennett is no longer just opinionated she's feisty, foolhardy and a lively party-goer.
Initially told from the point of view of the servants of the various houses, the cast of six female actors then interchange roles at lightning speed covering all the major and a good many minor characters as they go. Even at some points taking on more than one role at the same time!
McArthur is not just writer she also has a couple of the plum comedy roles in Mrs Bennett and Darcy – both characters the audiences despair at but also secretly love. McArthur's comic timing is impeccable in the irascible but also irrepressible Mrs Bennett.
Meghan Tyler is an Elizabeth Bennett for today. She may be dressed in costume but as she sits on a bench outside a party swigging from a bottle with cigarette in hand she brings the story into present times. Her frequent eye-rolling and 'fed-up' face will be familiar to many parents trying to bring up teenagers. But she also cares passionately about her sisters and is determined not to marry for convention's sake but only for love.
Hannah Jarrett-Scott pulls off a theatrical masterpiece as she races back and forth between the roles of Mr Bingley and his sister Miss Bingley. Christina Gordon manages a likeable Jane and a totally unlikeable Lady Catherine. Felixe Forde's Mr Collins perfectly portrays the character's idiocy while Tori Burgess is a giddy Lydia and an ever-disappointed Mary who finally has her moment at the finale.
Directed by Paul Brotherston, Pride & Prejudice (*sort of) also makes use of lots of well-known songs fitting them into the story naturally but also lending an additional layer of humour. We have Elizabeth singing Carly Simon's You're So Vain to Darcy, the servants giving melody to Elvis Costello's Every Day I Write the Book and a grand finale of Candi Staton's Young Hearts Run Free.
Ana Ines Jabares-Pita's set takes us inside a range of Pride and Prejudice houses but also inputs some really imaginative elements to recreate country walks, rain showers and a horse ride.
Indeed this production is popping with ideas, imagination and entertainment. While retaining Jane Austen's classic story at its heart, it brings us a celebration of Pride and Prejudice. It's fun and irreverent but told with huge affection for the original, reminding us of Austen's incredible powers for characterisation and for giving us a story which is still greatly loved today.