Pride and Prejudice and Christmas: Persephone holiday show a Jane Austen sequel

Mitch Larsen (left) and Emily Dallas (right) feature in 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley' at Persephone Theatre until Dec. 21, 2023. (Olivia Swerhone-Wick/Persephone Theatre)

Persephone Theatre is bringing the spirit Regency Era to the stage for the holiday season with a show inspired by a classic novel.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley serves as a sequel to the beloved Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. Set two years after the events of the novel, the play by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon focuses on Mary, the middle of the five Bennet sisters, as family and guests both old and new find their way home for the holidays.

Sam Fairweather, who plays the impetuous youngest Bennet sibling Lydia, said there is never a question that this show is full of relatable holiday spirit.

“Once you get into the play, you see it’s really a classic story of a family coming together for Christmas,” she said. “Yes, it’s set in the 1800s … but it’s very much a familiar story.”

Fairweather said she wasn’t an Austen fan before earning a role in this show, but since being cast as Lydia she’s absorbed multiple different versions of Pride and Prejudice to get an idea for her character.

As she puts it, there are plenty of “little nuggets” from the show that tie back to the book, but there’s plenty to love even for newcomers to Austen’s story.

“There are quotes and nudges to remind us of Pride and Prejudice, but the script has brought a more modern sense,” Fairweather said. “It’s a more feminist perspective … the characters all have similar (attitudes), but we also see that they’ve grown in the two years since Pride and Prejudice ended.”

With Christmas at Pemberley set during the Regency Era, a plethora of period costumes and set pieces will take the audience to that time. Fairweather lauded the design team for creating so many pieces with “exquisite detail” to help bring the show to life.

Fairweather said she gets to wear an impressive outfit while making one of her early entrances onto the stage — and the costume helped get her into the headspace of the character she plays.

“It’s very clear that it’s a comedy, but the costumes show there’s a level of grandeur and exquisiteness,” she said. “These characters are very decorated — it’s very clear the costume design is featured in the show, and it does inform our characters.”

Persephone Theatre’s Christmas shows always tend to be a big and flashy part of the season, and Christmas at Pemberley promises to be no exception. This is Fairweather’s first-ever role in a Persephone show, and she praised director Kenn McLeod and the rest of the cast for creating a fun and high-energy atmosphere to bring life to this Christmas show.

With the family hijinks and clever callbacks to the Jane Austen classic, Fairweather said she hopes the enjoyment from the cast can make its way onto the stage and out to the audience as the holiday season starts.

“I’m so grateful we’ve come together to put on a show that demonstrates joy,” she said. “I want the audience to come away feeling a little more warmth, and that Christmas spirit.”

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley runs until Dec. 21, 2023. Tickets can be purchased at persephonetheatre.org.

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