Pride and (quite a lot of) Prejudice/Commandery Gardens, Worcester


THIS is the theatre of the truly absurd… if only Jane Austen’s hymn to courtly love had been like this back in that Neolithic era when I was ploughing through those endless pages during my final year as a failed grammar school boy.

Once again, writer Chris Jaeger has taken a classic chunk of literature, run it through the mangle… and in the process created a comic masterpiece that drives a Regency horse and carriage through what had previously been a solid wall of frock coats, starched collars and attitudes to match.

Yes, the opening sequence in which Charlie Ryan’s Mr Darcy appears for all the world like a startled field vole about to be mashed by a combine harvester may have indicated a slightly hesitant start, but egad sir, this ripping yarn soon acquired the momentum of a sedan chair on cruise control.

Ben Humphrey directs this Worcester Rep offering and seems to have kept Jaeger’s gags intact, perhaps wisely resisting the temptation to out-funny the original script.

And thankfully, the Rep is bursting with the talent necessary to do the words justice. Take Matilda Bott, for example. Her Lydia Bennet was an absolute scream, both literally and metaphorically, as she vowed to test the trouser and firepower of her soldier beau George Wickham, played with delicious derring-do and dash by Tom Riddell.

Meanwhile, Genevieve Lowe’s Elizabeth Bennet provides the counterpoint, demure yet never prissy.

But the stars of this sumptuous summer folic are undoubtedly Edward Manning as a mountainous Mrs B – mercifully, he just about avoids being a pantomime dame – and the insanely hilarious John-Robert Partridge as fawning priest Mr Collins, who constantly had me choking and spluttering over my red wine and peanuts.

This is currently the best night out in Worcester without any shadow of a doubt. It runs until Sunday, July 14.

John Phillpott