‘Twas a month before Christmas, when in some theatrical place, a man put on a dress and an inch of make-up on his face. It is, without a doubt, a singularly peculiar custom. If you have ever tried and failed to explain to a friend from shores far away about the reasoning behind The Pantomime Dame, I would highly recommend you take them to see Pride & Prejudice: The Panto to witness James Walker-Black as one of the funniest I’ve seen. In this regency-panto mash up, Walker-Black as Mrs Bennett and Freya Evans as Jane Austen steal the show in a cast that already excels.
I must confess that I’m a bit ambivalent toward the original Pride and Prejudice. Before I’m lynched by those hordes of people that have marked Colin Firth’s laundry day as the new 0 AD, I would say that I do appreciate it has great cultural and literary significance. However, whenever I’ve attempted to watch it or read it, I’ve always felt a touch bored. Happily, in this production at The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone, I was thoroughly entertained throughout. Which leaves me to wonder whether I would find all of Austen’s work more accessible if only more drag acts were included. Worrying times. By Jove Theatre Company’s Pride and Prejudice: The Panto manages to stay true to the original themes of the text whilst introducing some rib-tickling comedy and a subtle thought-provoking feminist slant that will have you leaving a pantomime having used your brain, a rare thing indeed.
Whilst the production values in this performance didn’t blow me away, I would say that unless you really love going to the pantomime to see a spectacular set, you won’t leave feeling disappointed. Solid costuming that is mostly period-appropriate leads to a believable setting and the enthusiasm and ability of the twelve-strong cast more than make up for the lack of a regency country house back drop and a few chaise longues.
I really rate Pride and Prejudice: The Panto. It is a slightly different but nonetheless exhilarating way to continue a stalwart Christmas tradition. By catering for an adult audience, the cast is freed up to exploit the filthier jokes that are normally only alluded to in your bog standard panto, and this coupled with Austen’s plotline leads to a performance that is bursting with energy. If you want a panto that you will remember in years to come, this is the one to see.
Pride and Prejudice: The Panto is playing at The Cockpit Theatre until 20 December. For more information and tickets, see The Cockpit Theatre website.