A welcome return to the Lyceum for this incredibly witty whirlwind of a play. Written by “Isobel McArthur after Jane Austin” it says in the programme. And it must be said that even if it might, in some of it’s more bizarre moments, leave the Austin purists in a state of alarm, it stays true to the ethos of the original. Some may argue much more so than a few of the stuffy screen adaptations we have had in recent years.
Directed by McArthur along with Simon Harvey, she stars as both Mrs Bennett and Mr Darcy alongside – also in a number of roles – Christina Gordon, Tori Burgess and Hannah Jarrett-Scott who reprise their roles from the previous production and are joined this time round by Leah Jamieson.
Switching back and forth in their multiple roles, the timing throughout is impeccable – no mean feat given the breakneck speed at which the story moves along. McArthur’s script never falters or flags, and remains faithful to the source material in pointing out the need for the daughters to marry (women could not inherit their father’s property) which underlies Mrs Bennett’s hopeful matchmaking of Jane to Mr Bingley. It also underscores why middle daughter Mary, seen as too plain and studious to find a suitor, gets a fairly short shrift in the original. Here, at least, she emerges triumphant to lead the “Young Hearts Run Free” finale with the audience clapping and singing along, turning the Lyceum into a Bennett sisters hen party.
While those afore-mentioned purists might frown at Elizabeth’s rendition of “You’re So Vain” directed at Mr Darcy or Jane serenading Mr Bingley with “Will You Still Love me Tomorrow” or indeed the young ladies using language that most certainly did not appear in the book, this reviewer would like to think that Ms Austin herself would have been on her feet singing along at the end of the night.
Thinking it was time you were getting back to the theatre? You could do a lot worse that starting here. It’s a night of sheer good-natured entertainment, guaranteed to lighten your life. The portrait sequence, reminiscent of the Marx Brothers, is worth the admission money alone.