Tuesday, 19 September 2017

“Pride & Prejudice”
Nottingham Playhouse
Adapted from the Jane Austen novel by comedian Sara Pascoe with music by Emmy the Great, at first sight, a musical of “Pride & Prejudice” sounds outrageous.
How dare Sara Pascoe mess around with such a classic piece of literature? That's what some people may say, but being under no preconceptions in what I was going to see, I sat back to see what would unfold.
Austen’s lines can be amusing, which lends itself to being adapted in such a way by Sara to bring out the comedy and push it to the forefront. The lyrics of the songs in this production also have a lovely comic touch as well, almost parodying Austen’s work. It was almost like a dissection of the play which was then reassembled but maybe with not all the pieces in the right places.
That said I felt that the music didn't really add anything to the play. As a separate entity, the music was comical and clever but in the context of then play, it didn't do it for me, I'm afraid.
Maybe if Jane Austen were alive today she would be making a living out of musical theatre, who knows?
The story flip flopped from what "school kids" thought of the play from a modern view, and then from a director's point of view, remaking a film of the book going through, what i imagine could be the rushes (film folk will know what they are), and then to the actors within the play, playing the characters in the play that they were performing within this particular production.
At times the acting was deliberately hammy, which also added that comic, almost panto feel. Other times it was like watching "Horrible Histories", the TV show for kids.
Look, it's different but lovingly produced to be different and modern theatre needs to do this sort of thing to keep live theatre fresh. And it's going to get people talking which is never a bad thing. It was always going to be an exciting risk, which I think just paid off for Sara and the team.
A clever cast who took on several roles each but I'll mention a few of my standout characters.
Rachel Partington (Mary/Modern Mary / Miss de Bourgh / Mrs Hurst) was wonderfully "sandwich short of a picnic" who had a thing about envelopes for some reason. A wonderfully scatty role which added some lovely comic moments to the play. A nice professional debut for Rachel.

Kerry Peers (Mrs Bennet/Modern Mrs Bennet/Lady Catherine de Bourgh/Housekeeper) was the highlight for me, From the over excitable Mrs Bennet to the modern day director ( I think that was the role that she was going for) to the marvellous Lady Catherine (possibly based on Maggie Smith in Downton with the
cutting remarks). Loved them all.
Matt Whitchurch (Mr Darcy) was cool calm, collected and quite rude about the women. A fore runner to the modern sexist pig, but a brilliant character role.
Matthew Romain (Mr Bingley/Mr Collins). Another marvellous character driven fun role with a touch of hyper going off there with Mr Collins. great fun.
Alex Sawyer (Mr Wickham/Modern Wickham/Mr Gardiner). Wickham was a real slime ball but the ladies of the era seemed to love him. Another fun role to watch.
Adrian Irvine (Mr Bennet/Graham). It's amazing how donning a pair of glasses and waistcoat can age a character so much from Graham, the film director to Mr Bennet, the father of the family. Shows how clever props and costume can change an actor's performance to portray a role.
Directed by Susannah Tresilian and you can feel the love that she has for this story, and the fun that she obviously had with this pacy rom-com romp..
There's some lovely comic dance sections in the play which show the serenity in some of the characters and also the awkwardness in Mr Collins character. Thanks to the cleverness of Adele Parry's Movement Direction (is that a new name for the choreographer?)
I loved the set which was simple but clever, and incredibly effective, also showing a lot of class in the era of Austen's novel. Designed by Carla Goodman.
Go and see this production with an open mind. Don't expect a faithful interpretation of Jane Austen's novel of love and romance, expect something that maybe you didn't expect!
”Pride & Prejudice – the Musical” is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 30 September 2017

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