“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
You might say that I’m slightly obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. It’s my favourite book, I adore the BBC version and only a few weeks ago I played Jane in the play. So naturally when I heard that there was a Panto version I was first in line!
Intrigued? Definitely. And as for my sense of foreboding, well it was on high alert. Because I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t like Panto.
However, I must say that I loved it. And I think Jane Austen would have had a jolly good giggle as well.
By Jove Theatre have taken this beloved classic, mixed it up with a bit of dick (and Dickens) and plenty of glitter, plus a wet shirt (obviously) and plenty of laughs.
Good Fairy Jane Austen (Freya Evans) is trying to write a novel, but villain Charles Dickens (Alexander Woodward) refuses to let her intended lovers Lizzy (SJ Brady) and Darcy (Danny Pye) have a happy ending. So he brings in all sorts of trials and tribulations including an evil sister Cazza Bing (cue a rendition of Don’tcha sung and danced at poor Mr Darcy) and child-abductor Wickham (Ella Garland’s version of I’m Sexy and I Know It was hilarious) to ruin her plot.
Naturally our dame Mrs Bennet (the hilarious James Walker-Black) and her nerves don’t help the situation but with a bit of audience participation (including Blind Date suitors for Lizzy) it all works out in the end.
Walker-Black is a superb dame, in fact one of the best I’ve ever seen, with perfect comic timing, impressive improvisation and the ability to be unfazed by absolutely anything. Evans is delightful as Austen but it is as Bingley (well, the voice of as he’s replaced with a broom) that she gets us giggling with her posh boy accent.
Pye and Brady manage to capture the hatred/love of romance’s most famous couple (did I mention the wet shirt?) while Siân Mayhall-Purvis (Jane Bennet) dancing with her Bingley (who was a bit wooden actually – boom) was both sweet and ridiculous at the same time.
Shereen Roushbaiani played all of the other Bennet sisters (Kitty & Lydia were puppets), which worked surprisingly well, especially the scenes with Wicked Wickham.
In fact the whole cast was brilliant, keeping us laughing with cross-dressing, puppets, Bridget Jones’ references, Mary’s crazy eyebrows and well-written lyrics to modern songs that add to the hilarity of this almost intellectual period Panto.
Just be aware that Mrs Bennet might sit on you.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Pride & Prejudice: The Panto is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until 20 December