Pride and Prejudice – a Sarah Pascoe adaptation at York Theatre Royal
A modern, funny interpretation of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice could have been an absolute disaster, but Sarah Pascoe’s clear passion and deep understanding of the book, combined with Director Susannah Tresilian’s artistic vision, creates a very interesting play indeed.
Throughout the traditional telling of the story, in period dress and with linear storytelling, the play breaks into sketches of modernisation: a school classroom, a film studio, a TED talk… all picking out key questions about the text and, in some instances, attempting to answer the underlying issues in Pride and Prejudice in a humorous and non-lecturey manner. These welcome breaks are short and stylised, meaning they don’t interrupt the main action for long – just a quick pause to evaluate and allow the audience some time to think about the questions they’ve been asking themselves throughout. The only ‘breaks’ I don’t find enjoyable are the song interludes, written by Emmy The Great. The songs are clever and well-written, though the casts singing abilities leave a lot to be desired and, as such, it would have been less pantomimic to leave the songs out of this particular production.
The Bennet sisters are all powerfully played by the cast, each bringing their own brand of humour to the role. Alice Haig shines particularly as the bolchy Kitty. I’m also a fan of Matthew Romain, playing Mr Bingley and Mr Collins – he’s sweet and charming in one role, and gormless and tactless as the other. The multi-roling across the cast works well, and they all effortlessly change from one character to another – it often takes many scenes before I realise the role is played by the same actor or actress! I’m not keen on Matt Whitchurch as Mr Darcy as he lacks the intrinsic charisma the role is so famous for. Alex Sawyer as Mr Wickham has a little more appeal, however.
The production isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s certainly very clever and an enjoyable night out. Sarah Pascoe has done an exceptional job in adapting this intricate, considered version of a classic book.
Catch Pride and Prejudice at York Theatre Royal until 14th October.