Hilarious Spoof of Jane Austen’s Novel
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Jane Austen’s famous 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, has been portrayed on stage through the years, but not like the version currently at the CAA Theatre in Toronto. It certainly does tell the whole story – you know, the importance of young English women marrying wealthy men, and what a joy it is when you can actually love a wealthy man! This version also adds some perspective from the housemaids and includes language such as the use of the f-word. As well, it is absolutely hilarious.
Jane Austen was using satire when she wrote Pride and Prejudice – poking fun at English aristocracy and their treatment of women. This comedy, Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) takes that one step further. They make fun of every character in the story.
The show is on tour from the UK and the cast is an amazing group of superb comic actresses. They play all parts: from the housemaids to the sisters to the male suitors and more. Their costumes are designed for quick changes as they go out one door and in another as a different person. But it’s not the costume that lets the audience know it’s a different person: it’s a tone of voice, demeanor, posture or just a look on their face. Each character is immediately identifiable, and each performer obviously has a lot of fun creating the different characters.
The show opens with the housemaids dusting their way through the theatre, cleaning armrests on the chairs, chatting briefly with audience members until the bell rings, indicating their mistress needs them, and they go, some of them begrudgingly, to the stage. The rubber gloves they wear are probably an anachronism, but they add to the fun.
A curved stairway comes down and there are various doors and closets. A piano, divan and other furniture is moved around by cast members depending on whose house they are in. The number of doors and entrance ways is reminiscent of British farce with characters coming and going.
Just like the original story, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett have five daughters: Jane, Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and Liz. Liz is the protagonist of the story, just as Elizabeth is in Austen’s original. Mrs. Bennett must be sure her daughters marry well and preferably a cousin, so that they can inherit the family home. (The same problem existed 100 years later in Downton Abby!) In the sort of version, Mr. Bennett does little to support his wife. You will laugh when you meet Mr. Bennett. Or not. But Mrs. Bennett is so worried about the situation that her health fails. However, we learn later she’s a hypochondriac.
Another excellent addition in the sort of version is modern pop music. The sisters are all singers, even Mary who is told that she cannot sing. As well, the housemaids are all singers and can whip out microphones and a speaker on a moment’s notice. For example, they sing “You’re So Vain” to the conceited Mr. Darcy. Or when Jane takes off on horseback, we are treated to Etta James’ “At Last”. Later they sing the very appropriate “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end”. But the best laugh came when snooty Lady de Bourgh shows up in her elegant red and pink ensemble. She is serenaded with “Lady in Red” and we are told it was written by her son Chris.
For any Austen fan, this silly show is a real treat. The laughs come one on top of the next, thanks to this brilliant comedic cast. But even if you’re not an Austen fan, and haven’t read the original Pride and Prejudice, you will still laugh at all the hilarious antics in Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of).
Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) continues with eight shows a week at the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge St., Toronto, Ontario until January 21, 2024. For tickets, visit www.mirvish.com or call 1-800-461-3333 for more information.
Photo: The cast of Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) as the housemaids. Photo by Mihaela Bodlovik.
Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of)
By Isobel McArthur, after Jane Austen
Directed by Isobel McArthur and Simon Harvey
Musical Supervisor Michael John McCarthy
Choreography by Emily Jane Boyle
Performed by Ruth Brotherton, Christina Gordon, Lucy Gray, Dannie Harris, Leah Jamieson, Grace Liston, Olivia Dowd.
CAA Theatre, 651Yonge Street, Toronto
December 14 to January 14, 2024 * Held over to January 21, 2024
Reviewed by Mary Alderson