Pride and Prejudice

Illyria Theatre at Blickling Hall

It was funny, furiously fast and full of inventive theatre – but it was Pride and Pantomime, not Jane Austen's great novel of subtle irony.

Mrs Bennet as a harridan in a harlequin dress and Caroline Bingley as an Ugly Sister were knockabout versions of their far more complex originals.

All but the four central characters – Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, Darcy and Bingley – were grotesques and even the sensible sisters occasionally lapsed into the flighty, flirty foolishness of their younger siblings.

Illyria fielded a five-strong cast who each played a variety of male and female roles and the split-second costume changes and gender reversals were an integral part of this Regency romp.

Laughter and applause punctuated the evening as the many coach journeys featuring coconut shells and bobbing bonnets got sillier and funnier.

The cast deftly incorporated a range of “incidents” into the show, including a mobile phone ringing in the audience and Elizabeth choking on a mosquito seconds after the dénouement when she finally accepts Darcy's proposal.

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If Miss Austen was up there in genius heaven looking down on Illyria's interpretation of her work, no doubt she raised a quizzical eyebrow – and gave an ironic smile.

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