Cross-dressing, check. Song and dance, check. Audience participation, check. Mild sexual innuendo, check. A villainous Charles Dickens, check. That can mean only one thing: It’s panto season again!
Pride and Prejudice: The Panto is a hilarious interpretation of Jane Austin’s work of the same title. In panto form, the story gets silly quickly and keeps the audience going through the entire show. There were times during the show when this reviewer was laughing so hard, they cried.
Costuming was simple yet appropriate, comedic and vaguely Regency in theme. The set was essentially non-existent, although it utilized well the abilities of lighting and live piano for a thrilling performance. Crowd participation was also judged at a very good level, and caused some of the best comedy bits as audience members responded well to spontaneous interaction with the cast.
The theatre itself, albeit small, allowed for an ‘in the round’ experience that played well with the medium. By far, more than the venue or costumes or dramaturgy, the biggest impact came from the actors themselves. It’s a phenomenal cast. Mrs Bennet was played outrageously and wonderfully, in full drag with hoop skirt and wig. Her exaggerated mannerisms and verbal retorts were so thoroughly entertaining. The entire cast worked together so flawlessly, each working with one another in sync.
Mrs Bennet was the common thread throughout the sub-plots, and she did an excellent job of serving as panto glue to hold everything together. As Mrs Bennet made clear in the beginning, she was searching for husbands for her five daughters. There were several times during the show when Mrs Bennet ventured into the audience to inquire as to the availability of certain men. Whenever she ventured toward an area of the audience, one could see male members cringing in fright at the potential of being made fun of. But the audience were such good sports! They really played along, as is the panto protocol.
All of the cast members were pure professionals and a delight to watch. But one cast member must be singled out as particularly stellar: Mary Bennet. As the third of five daughters, Mary is bookish and homely. But she comes alive when she simultaneously plays her two younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia, who are characters animated through separate sock puppets, one on each of Mary’s hands. Mary rapidly flips between her character to Kitty to Lydia by simple raising a sock puppet and mouthing words aloud. How talented this actress is to seamlessly play a raucous trio of sisters. It was simply amazing and thoroughly entertaining. I died laughing.
The entire show, including intermission, is well over two hours long, which in the end was probably twenty minutes too much. But nonetheless, the audience was kept engaged during the seemingly endless twists and turns of this 200-year-old novel. Pride and Prejudice: The Panto is a show that will surely make you laugh with clever slap-stick comedy. See it. See it now!
Review by Jennifer Daley
Pride & Prejudice: The Panto by James Walker-Black and Heather Remington
based on the novel by Jane Austen
For Christmas 2015 By Jove Theatre re-stage their critically acclaimed flagship production, subverting and celebrating two of our country’s most beloved institutions. Award-winning ensemble By Jove Theatre return to The Cockpit with their uproarious take on Jane Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice. Throwing together one of the country’s most beloved writers and one of its most beloved entertainments, this acclaimed production brings together Darcy, ‘By Jove Theatre have tapped into a humongous wealth of hilarity within Austen’s masterpiece … Dames and even Dickens!
Pitched as a battle between ‘Good Fairy’ Jane Austen and her wicked wordsmith antagonist Charles Dickens, the familiar story unfolds in the absurd, anarchic world of pantomime. Young Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters, cajoled by their mother Mrs Bennet (our Dame, of course) into marrying, must overcome the perils of passions, scandals and wet shirts in the pursuit of a husband. Along with a few live, regency-style pop covers for good measure. Will Dickens succeed in thwarting Austen’s heroines? Or will they find love and, more importantly, happiness?
By Jove interpret myth, legend and works from the cultural canon into politically-edged theatre for 21st Century Britain. With a distinct focus on new writing, political comedy and feminism, the company’s previous show, Othello, at the CLF Art Cafe in 2014, received high praise. In the production, By Jove aim to satirise gender stereotypes that still pervade modern society.
Pride & Prejudice: The Panto was adapted from the novel by James Walker-Black and Heather Remington and developed by the By Jove ensemble. It is based on an original idea by Simon Sladen, David Bullen and James Walker-Black. It is directed by David Bullen, with musical arrangements by Todd James and designs by James Walker-Black.
ELIZABETH BENNET – SJ Brady
MR DARCY Dannie Pye
MRS BENNET James Walker-Black
JANE BENNET Siân Mayhall-Purvis
MARY, KITTY AND LYDIA BENNET Shereen Roushbaiani
JANE AUSTEN Freya Evans
CHARLES DICKENS Alexander Woodward
HEAD CHORUS Elly Lowney
CAROLINE BINGLEY / CHORUS Sinéad Costelloe
MR WICKHAM / CHORUS Ella Garland
ANNE DE BOURGH / CHORUS Alice Trow
MR COLLINS David Bullen
WRITTEN BY James Walker-Black and Heather Remington
DEVELOPED BY By Jove Theatre Company
IDEA BY Simon Sladen, James Walker-Black and David Bullen
DIRECTOR David Bullen
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR Rosa Wicks
PRODUCED BY Siân Mayhall-Purvis, David Bullen, SJ Brady and Wendy Haines
MUSICAL DIRECTOR Todd James
CHOREOGRAPHER Susanna Dye
DESIGNER James Walker-Black
STAGE MANAGER Janina Sasin
DEPUTY STAGE MANAGER Wendy Haines
PUBLICITY DESIGN Nicole Savin
Pride & Prejudice: The Panto
Gateforth Street, London, NW8 8EH
Tuesday 8th December – Sunday 20th December 2015 at 7.30pm
Matinee on Sunday 20th at 3pm
www.thecockpit.org.uk or by phone on 02072582925