Review by Taylor Kendal
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Pride and Prejudice is one of the most well known and beloved stories of the twentieth century; one that has been retold time and time again in various ways and formats. I myself have been a fan of the original novel and many an adaptation over the years, so seeing this on the bill as part of Melbourne Fringe this year, how could I refuse?
2 Proud 2 Prejudiced is the brainchild of brand-new company Picked Last For Sport. It is a love letter to Jane Austen’s timeless classic; an entertaining summarised retelling with a hint of a modern twist, paying homage while poking fun in the best of ways. With an extremely multitalented cast of five and an arrangement of original songs, it is a performance for any classics lover and theatre goer alike.
An abridged version of the novel’s events as told by the Bennet Sisters brings the story to life in a fresh and engaging way, which can be a difficult feat for a story that is so well known and recreated by so many. And yet the cast stray from being repetitive; quickly moving through the plot through song and manage to keep the soul of the novel with a modern taste that is refreshing and hilarious, and a little bit naughty.
The cast truly need to be commended for everything they put into this performance. Each ‘sister’ plays a double role and brings such joy and humour to each character. They are so perfectly cast with an incredible juxtaposition with their alternate characters, that it couldn’t be more perfect.
Sarah Edgar gives a stunning performance as our heroine Lizzie Bennet, with a sweet and captivating voice in the opening number about Austen. As a complete role reversal, she is utterly hilarious as Lady Catherine, whose big number about Status was only overshadowed by one other…you’ll see why in a moment. Freya Long’s Jane is the epitome of sweetness and grace as lovelorn eldest sister Jane, as well as the family’s rival Caroline Bingley. Sean Sully’s performance as Mary and Bingley were so completely opposite, my jaw ached from grinning at the middle Bennet sister’s dry, unflinching wit, and especially while also providing the musical accompaniment on the piano forte. Melissa Viola brings the cheeky overexcitable and troublesome youngest sister Lydia to life with such effortless skill. Ryan Smith, however, playing the oft-forgotten sister Kitty, was an absolute highlight of this performance. Whether it was the over emotional realisation that she was forgotten, asking an audience member plot points because ‘I haven’t read the book and I’m lost’ or the absolutely fabulous jazz rendition of Darcy’s Letter, complete with scatting, I often had to pause the performance because I was laughing so much. Paired with the detested character of Mr. Collins, it was truly an outstanding performance, by Smith and the entire cast working together so harmoniously.
And what of the leading man? Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy? Well…his performance was quite frankly a little…two dimensional? ; ) Every sing in the performance was an original, written especially for the show. Each cast member had their time to shine on more than one occasion, and while each song was written wonderfully and were enjoyable, there was one particular stand out One that included very detailed descriptions of Mr. Darcy in that wet shirt, accompanied by various photos of Colin Firth (and Matthew Macfadyen), and an unmoving refusal to acknowledge that that part didn’t happen in the book. Shh!
There was only one real lowlight of watching the recorded performance, and it had nothing at all to do with the show, but the onslaught of audience members standing up through the show and blocking the camera.
Overall, 2 Proud 2 Prejudice is a captivating and charming love letter to one of the world’s greatest writers, whose works have stood against the ages, and are still as beloved 200 years later.