Pros: The show perfectly incorporated everything you’d expect from a pantomime with the work of Austen, a collaboration that worked surprisingly well.
Cons: I honestly cannot think of any negative things to say about this show, it was a joy to watch from start to finish.
Jane Austen is one of my favourite writers, and Pride and Prejudice one of my favourite books. So when I saw that there was a panto version of the famous novel, I couldn’t resist. Austen’s book has been adapted countless times for film and TV, and has provided inspiration for many more literary works, so it seems natural that a panto would eventually follow… For those who don’t know, the book is about five sisters whose mother is desperately trying to see them married. The story lends itself well to panto, and this show is remarkably faithful to the original story.
The panto begins with Jane Austen and Charles Dickens having an argument about their literary works, which continues throughout the show. Austen is the panto fairy wishing the characters well while Dickens is the stereotypical panto ‘baddie,’ who we all boo and hiss at. All the audience interaction you’d expect from a panto is in this show, for instance, one of my favourite quotes:
Austen: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Dickens (and audience): “Oh no he isn’t”
There were so many absolutely hilarious moments in this play that I could go on for hours. I spent the whole time with a grin on my face.
Mrs Bennet is presented as a caricature in many adaptations, so she makes the perfect pantomime dame. For me she stole the show, as she scouted the audience for potential suitors and hosted Take Me Out And Marry Me, which featured the brilliantly slimy Mr Collins. Other standout moments included when Jane finds out that Bingley is leaving Meryton. Jane is sitting in the middle of the stage, sobbing and listening to All By Myself as she is given a duvet, a DVD of The Notebook, a larger than life tub of Ben & Jerrys and finally a bottle of white wine. A hilarious reference to Bridget Jones, which some see as a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice. Another reference to a modern adaptation, which I think everyone was hoping for, was the Darcy/Colin Firth wet shirt scene. As Darcy appears complete with frilly shirt, Mrs Bennet gives Lizzie a mug of water. After Lizzie throws this over Darcy, Mrs Bennet is not satisfied, so she follows the mug with a glass of water and finally a bucket, which Lizzie chucks over Darcy to cheers from the audience.
Ensemble singing and piano accompaniment of contemporary pop songs provide the majority of the music for the show. At the first ball, the music is a slowed down version of The Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling with modified lyrics. Other song choices included the Spice Girls 2 Become 1 for Lizzie and Darcy’s first dance, and Caroline Bingley singing Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me to Darcy.
The set also worked well, with a large projection above the stage showing cartoon/panto style depictions of the scenes. At the back of the stage were piles of books draped with fairy lights. Most of the cast wore regency style costumes, however of course Mrs Bennet had a typical panto dame’s outfit. Without a doubt the funniest prop/cast decision was Bingley as a broom … yes a broom.
This show is absolutely fantastic, and so funny and clever that I enjoyed every second. Let’s hope Christmas 2014 brings Pride and Prejudice: The Panto back to London.
Author: Jane Austen
Presented by: By Jove Theatre
Box Office: 020 7258 2925
Booking Link: http://thecockpit.org.uk/show/pride_prejudice_the_panto
Booking Until: 16th December 2013