Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of)
Criterion Theatre, London, until April 17
There are some theatre directors who regard a playwright’s text as holy writ and would not presume to suggest a single alternation. The bigger the egos involved, the more deference there tends to be, and, God knows, I’ve had to sit through some extraordinarily boring shows as a consequence.
Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) has been through quite a few rewrites since it began life in Scotland three years ago, but, like a fine whisky, it has benefited from maturation.
The show is performed by an all-female cast and they clearly understand what a collaborative endeavour theatre is.
It helps that the writer Isobel McArthur also co-directs, with Simon Harvey, so it means there is little if any division of labour. Actors need to be able to say to playwrights and directors that they can’t make a line or a scene work and everyone needs to pitch in.
McArthur also appears in it as both Mrs Bennet and a wonderfully pouting and posturing Darcy, while Hannah Jarrett-Scott shows a range that stretches all the way from Charles Bingley to his haughty sister, Caroline, and Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte Lucas.
Meghan Tyler’s Elizabeth is a lot of fun, too, and belts out a spirited rendition of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain to Darcy.
Mr Bennet, meanwhile, manages to save the producers another actor salary: he’s only seen from behind in an armchair, puffing smoke and reading a newspaper.
There’s little I can say in criticism of this glorious parody of Jane Austen because everyone involved has clearly anticipated every criticism I could possibly make.