It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice (Sort Of) is utterly excellent and deserves to be seen by all. At the Oxford Playhouse all this week, I encourage everyone to experience this joyous production that re-tells Austen’s celebrated story, but with a few more foul words and karaoke hits.
The six actors took to the stage in simple white dresses with black boots and added a dress or jacket to signify a variety of characters. Almost immediately, there was a karaoke machine and microphones, as the cast took me on a journey of thoughts from ‘oh my, is it going to be a musical?’ to ‘they’re singing? How’s this going to work?’ to ‘Of course they’re singing, this works perfectly!’ The classic songs always arrived at the best comedic times and made me wonder why Austen didn’t include them in her original - perhaps she just wasn’t a karaoke fan... ‘You’re so vain’, sung by Elizabeth, perfectly described Mr Darcy at the start of the play and had the audience in stitches!
Each time a song arrived, the cast convinced me even more that they are exceptionally gifted performers with an inordinately large number of talents, ranging from unsurpassable comedic acting to being accomplished musicians on a plethora of instruments. Christina Gordon’s playing - harp, violin and piano - continued to amaze me each time she appeared with another instrument, along with Isobel McArthur’s melodeon and Hannah Jarrett-Scott’s surprise trumpet sections bringing the house down.
I cannot rhapsodize about this all-female cast enough; with Meghan Tyler’s brilliant and brazen Elizabeth providing brutal laughs, and her sisters, portrayed fabulously by Tori Burgess, Felixe Forde and Christina Gordon, enthralling and entertaining the audience throughout with their impressively slick physical acting. The play is absolutely hilarious yet somehow remains faithful to the storyline, courtesy of Mrs Bennett/Darcy/Flo/writer/ultimate creative genius, Isobel McArthur. A laugh-out-loud ludicrous performance has been created to make even an Austen cynic fall head-over-heels for the astonishing production - in fact, I think it would make them excessively diverted from their previous opinions on Austen.
I didn’t have to be a detective to know that the rest of the audience were loving the show just as much as me; the howls of laughter were definitely my first clue! A buzz of excitement filled the audience the second the cast had left the stage for the interval, at which point the person next to me could be heard raving that ‘Hannah Jarrett-Scott is cracking me up!’, a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with: Jarrett-Scott’s Miss Bingley saw me shamelessly shrieking with laughter with each gaping facial expression or skirt toss she made. I was utterly astounded at the brilliance of her performance and I earnestly wish to see her in more comedic theatre in the future. Each of the cast had so many stand-out moments that it would be impossible to recount them all, as they were extremely refreshing and altogether outstanding.
All the way home, I was chuckling to myself as I remembered witty lines and brilliant surprises. A truly great show stays with the audience, and I will be talking about Pride and Prejudice (Sort Of) with anyone who will listen!