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Review: Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of)

There's not a bonnet in sight in this joyfully irreverent, all-female adaptation of the Jane Austen classic at the Bristol Old Vic

There’s a twist from the off as the familiar story is introduced by the servants “you can’t have whirlwind romance without clean bedding” and the spirited tone is set in this lively Blood of the Young and Tron Theatre Company co-production at the Bristol Old Vic.

We’re hit with the idea (where were the servants?) at the same time as the tongue-in-cheek humour; Elvis Costello’s Every Day I Write the Book sung by the cast. Love-struck hits from the history of pop pepper the production, serving to shake off any vestiges of starchiness the writer’s reputation may bring.

However well-known the story, this adaptation by Isobel McArthur (who’s also in the cast) feels fresh, bringing out the wit, the truths and the idiocies of the original. We’re laughing at, but also very much with. We’ve got one foot in the present, with ideas of revisionism and intersectionality, but one foot set surely in the pure enjoyment of the tale. It takes you by surprise, with all the laugh-out-loud fun that is going on, but the drama is truly affecting and the spirit of the original captured without a bonnet in sight.

Come for the writing, and stay for the cast, who are the stars of the show. The cross-casting highlights the contrast as they flip skilfully between sassy, sweary modern girls and emotionally inadequate men.  A tight group of six they are, to a woman, engaging physical comedians. I’d be surprised if we don’t see more of some, if not all, of them in the future.

It may be clever and relevant, which makes for a satisfying evening, but what you take away is the humour and the vitality. With hints of karaoke along the way, it’s a perfect girls’ (or should I say womens’…) night out.

 

Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) is on at the Bristol Old Vic until Sat 28 Sept.

 

Bristol Old Vic, King Street, Bristol BS1 4ED. Box office 0117 9877877. bristololdvic.org.uk

 

Words Rosie Meachin. Photos Mihaela Bodlovic

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