Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) is Not to be Missed

So, who devoured Bridgerton during lockdown?  Who has seen every on-screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice there is? Who gets addicted to the numerous Regency romance literary series available on Kindle unlimited

Well, that will be me then so I “sort of” jumped into a corset, donned a bonnet and pelisse and took myself off to the glorious Leeds Grand Theatre to see Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of)Co-produced by a list of well renowned theatre companies including The Tron, Bristol Old Vic, Leeds Playhouse, Birmingham Rep, Royal Lyceum Edinburgh and more (many more) for two and half hours I was immersed in a belly laugh-out-loud romp or put another way, a modern-day speed read/karaoke party retelling of this epic Austen favourite. The tale of the Bennet Family and in particular Mrs Bennet’s infinite quest to marry off the elder of her five daughters to “save the family from financial ruin”.

Unashamedly, I absolutely fall hook, line and sinker for the typical regency read. Girl meets boy, girl hates boy, girl thinks the boy isn’t so bad after all, girl loses boy, girl desperately wants boy and then joy of joys, boy finds girl again and falls into her lap (metaphorically speaking obviously) and it is a true love match and everyone lives happily ever after! I know it’s formulaic, I know exactly how it’s going roll and so the *sort of attached to the title of this version piqued my curiosity and I am so very glad I went along .

This adaptation is performed by five, multi-talented and incredibly charismatic women. Yes, five . . . women! 

Now we all know that the characters are many fold and varied in Pride & Prejudice and the all-female cast rather cleverly switched characters, often in the blink of an eye or a cheeky blackout if you will.  The piece starts off with the five in cleaning mode, dusting and polishing the Leeds Grand itself and then the stage set.  Deciding to tell the tale they quickly don simplified “over costumes” depicting the regency era and these they interchange frequently as they quite literally and often, jump from one character to the next.  We marvelled at the versatility of the entire cast as they played musical instruments, belted out some hot favourite Karaoke (more on that soon!) and delivered the entire piece with such spot-on comedic timing. 

Dannie Harris who plays both Mrs Bennet and Mr Darcy captured both characters brilliantly and the “Christmas in the Bennet household” season, complete with a tin of Quality Street was hilariously funny but that was just one of many such scenes.  The piece fuses contemporary props with the traditional and when the lights go down, the spotlight comes on and the karaoke machine comes out, this piece speaks to everyone who has loved and lost or just loved.  Who knew that Bonnie Tyler and Carly Simon would ever contribute to Austen’s storytelling?  When Emmy Stonelake (Elizabeth Bennet) belts out “You’re So Vain” one could almost imagine it was written with the prideful Mr Darcy in mind.  It was superbly done and Emmy’s Welsh accented Elizabeth is a no-nonsense, plain speaking, prop forward playing tour de force!  Commendations to the remaining cast Lucy Gray, Leah Jamieson and Megan Louise Wilson.  The ovation was deserved.

Having premiered in Glasgow the show was set to hit the West End and then Covid hit!  Thanks to impresario David Pugh who clearly believed in this piece, written by Isobel McArthur and supported by Andy Arnold of The Tron Theatre Company, the show has taken to the road. 

It’s hard to put this production into a box.  Is it drama? A tad jukebox musical theatre? Live comedy? Truth be told it does not require a specific category just go along and let it wash over you, brighten up your life, simply be swept along and enjoy the belly laughs. 

With people on their feet at the end, what better testimony to celebrating a stage full of talent and a cracking night out.  Not to be missed.  Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday 29th April and touring to a theatre near you!

Review by Deana Morgan @deanamorgandance

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