Four years after I first saw Isobel McArthur’s Pride and Prejudice *sort of back at Bristol Old Vic (you can read my review from that production here), it has returned, sharper and with a glow-up following a West End run and long UK tour. My original thoughts still stand, it is a cracking night of theatre, both generous to its source material, yet pulsing with anarchic, irreverent comedy spirit. It has been trimmed slightly, both in length and in cast size, the original six is now a quintet. Watching it in validatory triumph, it’s fascinating to see a show that incorporates something of the scrappy fringe now possess the confidence of a West End hit. In the days of franchises, could the *sort of brand have a similar trajectory? Bleak House *sort of, The Great Gatsby *sort of, Trainspotting *sort of. Theatre producers get booking.
It’s a brand-new cast leading the touring production and they are as enchanting as the original company, highly drilled and working their socks off. Emmy Stonelake is an earthy, Welsh valleys Elizabeth Bennett, a mass of blonde hair and Doc Martens stomping attitude, Dannie Harris provides a great double as the inhaler grasping Mrs. Bennett and the You’re So Vain Darcy, while Lucy Gray, Leah Jamieson, and Megan Louise Wilson play Bennett sisters, Bingley heartthrobs, soldier cads, and dull clergymen in delightfully droll characterisations.
On a second watch, it felt queerer and more heartfelt. I fell in love with it more. It’s a testament to the courage in regional theatres pooling their resources to let young creatives find their feet- the show originally opened at The Tron in Glasgow before BOV, Edinburgh’s Lyceum, and Oxford Playhouse got on board and eventually, it found its way to West End impresario David Pugh who took it commercial. Bold ambition can be a money spinner. Rough theatre can find its place in the glitz and glamour of the West End. It’s a modern-day classic. Go.