MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY
Arts Club Granville Island Stage, Nov 15 - December 30
My Two Cents
I wasn’t expecting Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley to be the most enjoyable thing I’ve seen all year, but here we are. A holiday sequel to Pride and Prejudice might sound trite, but a witty script, perfect performances and beautiful design elevate this production into something truly special.
Set not so long after the events of Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Darcy’s extensive family (four sisters and their parents) are on their way to Pemberley, where they will all spend Christmas together. Mr. Darcy has also invited a distant cousin, Lord Arthur De Bourgh, to stay with them for the holiday. The titular Miss Bennet is the unmarried Mary (played by Kate Dion-Richard), middle sister of the five daughters. Mary lacks the social graces of her elder sisters, but she has channelled her scholarly leanings into talent on the piano and a vast knowledge of the natural world. When Lord Arthur (Matthew MacDonald-Bain) arrives, it’s clear he and Mary are a perfect match. It’s only a matter of time, along with a series of misunderstandings and presumptions, until they can be together.
Under Roy Surette’s direction, the script by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon is treated with just the right balance of levity and reverence. It’s an homage to Austen, imbued with some more modern sensibilities. With the cast’s razor-sharp timing, every joke lands and the farcical elements feel woven in naturally. Ted Roberts set is so beautiful that I felt I myself was an honoured guest at Pemberley. Amy McDougall’s costumes are a feast of Regency decadence - Mary’s final gown is an indisputable piece of art.
The pleasure of this show comes in the mixing of the familiar with the new. Seeing the Darcys at home and enjoying married life is a treat, especially with Lauren Jackson as a strong and compassionate Lizzy and Chris Walters as the quintessentially pompous and charming Mr. Darcy. Youngest sister Lydia (Baraka Rahmani) is as vapid and flirtatious as she ever was, trying to win Mr. De Bourgh’s affections for herself, despite already being married. In trying to describe the two leads, Matthew MacDonald-Bain and Kate Dion-Richard, I find myself coming up short. Simply put, they are perfect, in their roles and in their relationship with each other. There’s something so gentle and lovely about them and it really sneaks up on you. I was totally charmed.
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is the theatrical equivalent of a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows. It’s sweet, comforting, and warms you to your core. I appreciated that I could just sit back and enjoy myself, without having to think or worry too much. At times it’s silly and self-referential, but it has no presumptions to be anything other than what it is and delivers exactly what it promises. Austen fans, rejoice! It’s everything you could hope for in a holiday show.