Review: Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) (Bristol Old Vic)

Photography by Mihaela Bodlovic – Tron Theatre 2018

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that if you produce Jane Austen, especially in the South West, then it is to be as authentic, as earnest and as close to traditional BBC magnificence as possible.

Then along came Tron Theatre Company and Blood of the Young and shredded that truth until it was nothing more than dust.

Since it first opened at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) has been tearing up rule books and auditoriums with their take on Austen’s pioneering novel of manners and self-discovery with a hefty dose of anarchy and a thumping soundtrack.

The story is an adaptation of Austen’s novel for the stage. It’s all there. Darcy, Wickham, the Bingleys, the Bennetts, the whole box and dice. It’s also far more faithful then you may imagine. This is it’s first plus point. It allows the company to approach the piece stylistically with a level of integrity and authenticity that you can only have if you know the piece inside out and respect it. In a similar way to Rash Dash’s 2018 Three Sisters, the company have taken the source material, ripped it up and rebuilt it from the ground up.

Opening with a blast of Elvis Costello’s Every Day I Write The Book, the company take a page of Jo Baker’s 2013 novel Longbourn which tells the same timeline as Austen’s novel, just from the point of view of the servants. This acts as a simple framing device and justifies the quick changes, the multiple roles and the gender swapping.

The company of six are exceptional; Tori Burgess, Christina Gordon, Felixe Forde, Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Isobel McArthur and Meghan Tyler race around Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s splendid regency set at lightning speed, their recklessness matched only by their precision.

This is an adaptation that has something for everyone, Austenphiles and novices alike. It is a text that is both deeply known and clearly loved by the company. The care and attention to the adaptation is testament to the integrity of the creative team. It has a raucous energy and a huge heart earning both uncontrollable belly laughs as well as honestly moving moments of genuine emotion.

There is a tendency with established work and period drama to make fun of or parody a style or genre but you cannot satirise a satire and only a creative team on top of their game recognises that.

Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) is a riotous, joyful and ground-breaking piece of work that embodies the spirit of Austen and blasts her into the 21st Century.

***** (5 stars)

Bristol Old Vic until 28th September 2019       

Full details here.

Originally published on Broadway World UK.

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