Review: Extravagant and adorable, Persephone Theatre’s Christmas play delights

Sam Fairweather, Emily Dallas, Amanda Trapp and Ali DeRegt perform in Persephone Theatre's 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley' running until Dec. 21, 2023. (Olivia Swerhone-Wick/Persephone Theatre)

Persephone Theatre’s Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley crashes into Christmas with the perfect assault of humour, charm, wit, and extravagance. 

The story is a modern sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. With Elizabeth (Amanda Trapp) and Jane (Ali Deregt) happily married, Mary (Emily Dallas) is the focus of this story as the precocious and titular ‘Miss Bennet.’ 

Elizabeth Darcy and Mr. Darcy (Kevin Moxley) host the family for the Christmas holidays at Pemberley where Mary stands out as the lone Bennet sister to be unmatched in marriage. Her love is of books and music, and she scarcely seems interested in being courted until the arrival of Arthur de Bourgh (Mitchell Larsen), an awkward but charming lord with interests that coincide with Mary’s. The romance proceeds in proper Austenian fashion with wit and letters and a fair share of misunderstandings. The result is both heartwarming and humourous in Wednesday night’s preview performance.

The brilliance of Gunderson and Melcon’s script is that it plays on beloved characters and events from the classic novel without requiring intimate knowledge of it. While there are some wonderful references for those who have read Pride and Prejudice, the story does not assume prior knowledge and is entertaining on its own. Regardless of familiarity, they manage to capture Austen’s style of wit and banter with ease and grace and develop characters that feel at once absurd and entirely relatable. 

The set design by Ken Mackenzie is extravagant and engrossing. The awe of Pemberley is magnificently captured, and the music helps everything to flow and connect together. The scene changes were particularly masterful in that they did not require black outs but provided musical pantomime interludes that endeared the characters to the audience, allowed for the passage of time, and provided moments of genuine mirth. 

The ensemble had not one weak link. Dallas was captivating as Mary at the Wednesday night preview, with some impressive piano skills and an elegant air. Kevin Moxley and Tim Bratton make a fabulous pair as Darcy and Bingley respectively. Larsen’s physicality as Arthur de Bourgh had the audience roaring, and Elizabeth Whitbread’s Anne de Bourgh’s pompous exuberance was as hilarious as it was bold. They all fit into their roles with ease, and the chemistry especially between the sisters felt natural. The only possible criticism is a dropped accent on a word or two, but these moments were so miniscule so as to be inconsequential. The actors appeared to have fun in the silliness of the play, and their passion overflowed into the audience. 

One such moment came in a love scene between two characters near the end of the play that might be the most adorable love scene in all film and television this year. 

Persephone could not have put together a better show to capture the spirit of Christmas. It is at once fun and heartwarming, and the audience danced out of the theatre. It would be a shame to miss such a solid and entertaining play that is clearly made for the love of Christmas.

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

Recent Posts