It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s witty and romantic masterpiece is one of the best-loved stories of all time. The novel was familiar, but as it was a such a long long since I'd read it, I wasn't sure what to expect when taking my seat for a performance of Pride and Prejudice at Billericay last night. I need not have worried, I soon realised that this upcoming version was unlike any I had ever seen enacted, although the storyline was so familiar.
In this 200th year since Jane Austen's passing, there have been many performances of her work around Britain, and those who know some history of our Society of Women Writers and Journalists, will also know of our strong continuing connection with Jane's home, Chawton in Hampshire - population 300.
So, what a wonderful chance to celebrate the memory of one of the world’s most famous writers by watching the critically-acclaimed Pantaloons Theatre Company as they exercised their Austen powers in their comic adaptation of this well known literary masterpiece Pride and Prejudice?
The Pantaloons are known for their anarchic retellings of classic works of literature having previously put a hilarious spin on Bleak House, Sherlock Holmes, The Canterbury Tales, Grimm Fairy Tales, A Christmas Carol and many of Shakespeare’s plays.
“We are known for being somewhat silly,” says writer and director Mark Hayward. “But with our Pride and Prejudice we stay respectful to the things that people love about the book in the first place. This production gives Austen fans what they are looking for in staging – the romance, the scandals – whilst at the same time providing a great introduction to those who are new to the story and also interweaving the elements that make a show intrinsically Pantaloony.”
So what are the elements that make a Pantaloons show unique? “Live music, audience interaction, physical performances, and a large dollop of humour,” says Hayward. “Austen’s original text is full of funny moments; we capitalise on those and add a few of our own.”
This fascinating group of actors began life over ten years ago as an open-air theatre company, busking plays for donations in parks and on the streets, where they developed an attention-grabbing, interactive and playful performance style.
Currently, the Pantaloons are touring the south east and if you can catch up with them, you will not be disappointed - we enjoyed a super evening. Check their itinerary on www.thepantaloons.co.uk