What happens when you mix the world of Jane Austen with pantomime humour whilst mashing up modern pop songs in the Regency era?
Words: Keziah Leary, Subeditor: Alice Marshall
★★★★☆ The Cockpit Theatre, By Jove
No pantomime experience you’ve had before will quite prepare you for what’s in store when you step through the doors at The Cockpit. There are moments of madness, there are moments of genius but most importantly, there are plenty of moments of laughter. Admittedly there are times when you find yourself wondering if you’re in the middle of a very bizarre dream. But let’s face it, if you’re having a dream about Mr Darcy, then it can’t be all that bad.
I’m not usually a huge fan of pantomimes – the overdramatic and painfully awkward acting coupled with jokes you’d expect to find inside a Christmas cracker, is just a concept I don’t find myself buying into. However, I was delighted to find that By Jove‘s production was nothing of the sort. Almost every joke received laughter from the audience, and there were even quite a few moments where the actors had to wait for the laughter to die down before they could continue. With a pantomime aimed at a more adult audience, there’s no need to hide behind corny innuendos when you can come straight out with the naughty jokes – and trust me, they really did. Despite being, quite frankly, the most terrifying panto dame I’ve ever encountered, Mrs Bennet (James Walker-Black), was definitely the highlight of the show’s comedy.
From Kitty and Lydia as puppets, to Mr Bingley as a broom, the actors coped brilliantly with some slightly untraditional casting choices. Shereen Roushbaiani played both of the puppet sisters, as well as Mary and somehow still managed to make each character distinct on their own, and just as funny as the last. But it was her portrayal of the middle Bennet sister, Mary, that really blew me away. One moment she’d have the audience in hysterics with her wacky eyebrows and strange characteristics, and the next, they’d be wanting to just wrap her up in a gigantic hug because of the way she was treated by everyone else.
Despite being rather bland, Mr Bingley is actually one of my favourite characters from the novel, simply because he reassures me that not all men are idiots. So when I found out that in this production he’d be played by a broom, I was a little disappointed. However, Bingley the Broom triumphed once again as an outstanding favourite in the story. Voiced by Freya Evans (who also doubled as a delightfully perky Jane Austen), the audience were in fits of giggles every time “he” had a line. Give me a broom boyfriend any day – way less hassle!
Of course, it wouldn’t be Pride and Prejudice without a wet white shirt scene with Mr Darcy, and of course this production did not disappoint. Dannie Pye – who played Darcy – got soaking wet and then even played along with the audience and took his shirt off when one lady keenly shouted for him to do so. Audience participation is a must in any pantomime, and two gentlemen even had the pleasure of taking part in a blind date with Elizabeth Bennet (SJ Brady). Don’t worry though, they were rewarded for their contribution with some ‘luxury’ items – sanitary towels.
There’s a lot of thrusting, very obvious innuendos and, of course, a very happy ending. What more could you want from a pantomime? Pride & Prejudice: The Panto is at The Cockpit until 20th December. Visit their website to buy tickets.