Review: Pride & Prejudice (Sort of), New Theatre, Cardiff

Andy Howells visits Cardiff’s New Theatre to witness a new take on a Jane Austen classic by Isobel McArthur.

A tale of men, money and microphones, takes to the stage of Cardiff’s New Theatre this week as Isobel McArthur’s delightful twist on Jane Austen’s classic love story, Pride & Prejudice (Sort of) is told by the people who knew the Bennet’s, Bingley’s and Darcy’s best – the servants!

The fun, flighty, ferocious, fast-paced sweary script pulls no punches when dishing out the laughs, combining the drama of the Austen original with dashes of parody, 21st century pop culture and occasional hit song.

The essence of the 1800s is captured with the set design, featuring a large staircase and several doors set into its base, a white piano, a sofa, and seats made from books. The arrival in the auditorium  of our five protagonists is delightful as they spring clean not only the set, but the theatre and audience themselves. “When did you last clean these?” asks one young cast member as she polishes a gentleman’s pair of spectacles, just as two others demonstrate the merits of a telescopic feather duster on stage and a further discovering something rather nasty under the stairs!

Lucy Gray, Dannie Harris, Leah Jamieson, Megan Louise Wilson & Ruth Brotherton don frocks, black boots, and multiple costumes over the ensuing two and a half hours to deliver the funniest original live theatre I have witnessed in many a year.

Fusing madcap energy with impeccable comic timing there is plenty to enjoy. Costume changes take place in a split second and you can’t help but marvel as one actor steps off the stage in one role only to magically re-emerge seconds later from another part of the set, in a different role and costume. Emotionally charged moments of heart-crushing romance break into laughter as parties are catered for with Iron Brew and Wagon Wheels.  Then a scene suddenly erupts into a music number, You’re So Vain, It’s Raining Men, Young Hearts Run Free Will You Love Me Tomorrow and Every day I Write the Book complete with fabulous vocal harmonies, choreography, and instrumentation.

Megan Louise Wilson’s striking take on Lady Catherine de Burgh takes us by surprise, while its impossible not to raise a smile at Dannie Harris’ Mrs Bennet’s face is pulled from a tin of Quality Street or as she gives several monumental poses as Fitzwilliam Darcy. Leah Jamieson delivers a hilarious compendium of comic creations in the form of Anne, Mary Bennet, Lydia Bennet, and Mr Gardiner. In the midst of the mayhem are Lucy Gray as Charlotte and Ruth Brotherton as Elizabeth  on their search for potential suitors, then throwing any reason to the wind and joining in with the madness anyway!

Genuinely funny and brilliantly performed, this team of wonderful creatives are just what British Comedy needs now. My only regret is I can’t hit the replay button and watch it all again! Maybe they can return for an encore performance in the future – Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights perhaps? I’d be there like a shot!

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