In a tremendous stroke of good fortune for Londoners, the Scoop is hosting this production of Pride and Prejudice for three performances when audiences can see it for free (tonight and tomorrow night). It then goes on to tour around the country in the grounds of stately homes, where the beauty of the show is likely to be matched by its surroundings.
And what a glorious show this is. Treading that fine line between a comic adaptation and mockery of its multiple and much-loved television and film versions, this good-humoured romp through the story by a cast of five really is top quality. Only Alex Rivers’ Elizabeth Bennet is the one constant throughout the play. The rest of the cast gamely take on a variety of characters, transforming themselves with merely a bonnet and shawl and some frequently ludicrous accents.
Mrs Bennet and her brother have somehow become Welsh, while Wickham’s soldier friend Denny is suddenly a Cockney wide boy and Charlotte Lucas is now a perpetually tea-drinking simpleton. Yet, for all the quirkiness, the central love story is left intact, providing the perfect anchor to the proceedings.
There are some innovative touches such as the hilarious ball scenes in which the girls dance with the men while they simultaneously play guitars. Later a traditional reel descends into the routine from Whigfield’s Saturday Night. And demonstrating their impressive ad-libbing capabilities, they react to a kamikaze pigeon in one scene and later, when a flustered Emily Swatton talks of a Mr Winkham, Elizabeth winks at the audience.
As well as all the comedy, the Pantaloons players demonstrate a great warmth towards and understanding of the story and why so many people treasure it. Even men in skirts playing Mary and Kitty Bennet works perfectly somehow.