A Frances and Lynne Adventure
Ashby de la Zouch Castle
18th August 2012
“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”
Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
For Frances’ birthday in August, we went to see Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The classic novel by Jane Austen is not traditionally a play, but actually it worked very well. The play was made even better by the surroundings; the ruins of a Castle in Ashby de la Zouch. We had a picnic in the grounds, and watched the performance. It started in the afternoon and continued until it was dark.
**Our summary contains spoilers. Pride and Prejudice is a well-known story, so hopefully this will not cause a problem. Skip down to the last paragraph if you do not wish to know what happens**
Pride and Prejudice follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, one of five unmarried daughters (Jane, the eldest, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia, the youngest). Mrs. Bennet is very keen, in fact too keen, to see them all married because once Mr. Bennet dies, the estate will pass to a male cousin, Mr. Collins. When a wealthy gentleman, Mr. Bingley, purchases Neverfield Park, Mrs. Bennet is beside herself and begs Mr. Bennet to pay Mr. Bingley a visit. Mr. Bennet teases Mrs. Bennet and declines to visit Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennet reacts over dramatically, turning to tears and acting like the lives of her daughters are over. One of my favourite bits of dialogue from the story is an exchange between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet says, “Have you no consideration for my poor nerves?” To which, Mr. Bennet replies, “You mistake me, my dear. I have the utmost respect for your nerves. They’ve been my constant companion these twenty years”. This sums up the comical relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Mr. Bennet has in fact been to visit Mr. Bingley and he introduces his family at a ball. Mr. Bingley dances with Jane and appears to favour her. Dr. Bingley is accompanied by his friend, Mr. Darcy, who refuses to dance with Elizabeth. To add salt to the wound, he is also overheard saying that Elizabeth is “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt” him. Mr. Darcy is quickly seen as an arrogant man, and disliked among the country community.
Over time, at further social events, Mr. Darcy becomes attracted to Elizabeth’s quick wit. Elizabeth is naïve about this and her dislike for Mr. Darcy deepens, especially when she meets Mr. Wickham who tells her a lie about his unfortunate circumstances being the result of Mr. Darcy, and when she finds Mr. Darcy took Mr. Bingley back to London because he thought Jane was indifferent. When Mr. Darcy confesses his love for Elizabeth and asks her to marry him, she refuses and in the process breaks social etiquette in her rude rejection. She also brings up everything that she has learned about him. Mr. Darcy is surprised and offended, leaving her immediately. He does send a letter though, which explains that he thought Jane did not feel anything for Mr. Bingley, and that Mr. Wickham’s misfortune occurred because he tried to elope with Mr. Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana. Elizabeth re-evaluates her feelings with the new found information, and her dislike of Mr. Darcy softens.
Elizabeth goes on holiday with friends of the family (the Gardiners), and visits Pemberly (Mr. Darcy’s estate), believing Mr. Darcy is away. Mr. Darcy arrives while Elizabeth and the Gardiners are there and acts politely, inviting them to meet his sister. A letter arrives for Elizabeth and she is upset to find that her sister Lydia has run away with Mr. Wickham, and they are living together out of wedlock. She rushes home fearing disgrace will fall on the family. She and her sisters wait anxiously for news from their father, who has travelled to London to find her. When he returns empty handed, they fear the worst. However, soon news arrives of Lydia and Mr. Wickham’s marriage. Although the family believes Mr. Bennet’s brother has paid Mr. Wickham off, Elizabeth soon learns than it was Mr. Darcy who paid Mr. Wickham, and so saved her family.
Soon after, Mr. Bingley returns to Netherfield Park and visits Jane. He asks her to marry him and she accepts. Catherine de Bourgh, a wealthy influential woman, interrupts the family’s rejoicing and demands to speak with Elizabeth alone. She accuses Elizabeth of being engaged to Mr. Darcy and that it is impossible because Mr. Darcy is betrothed to her sickly daughter. Elizabeth admits she is not engaged to Mr. Darcy, but refuses to promise that she would not accept a marriage proposal from Mr. Darcy. Catherine de Bourgh is outraged and insults Elizabeth and her family, to which Elizabeth orders her to leave. Shortly after, Mr. Darcy arrives and he and Elizabeth go walking. He tells her than his feelings remain the same. Elizabeth accepts his proposal, and she and Jane are married at the end of the book.
The performance was magical, and true to the book. There was a very small cast of just six actors, who played all of the roles. It is a testament to their acting ability that Frances did not notice this was the case until about half way through. The only irritating bit was that the actress playing Elizabeth Bennet projected her voice a little too much. She ended up shouting rather than talking like the other actors. It was a little off putting actually. There was one actor who stood out in particular. The actor who played all the comical characters (e.g., the servant who moved the stage furniture around and Mr. Collins, the heir to the Bennet family’s fortune, amongst others) was excellent. He had the audience laughing every time he said “Catherine de Bough’s” name, which he did in an elaborate manner dragging out each syllable, gesturing with his arms, and an exaggerated bow. He also kept the audience entertained during the interval. He and Catherine de Bough walked around the audience selling raffle tickets. They remained in character the entire time, pointing at a plane in the sky and asking shrilly whether it was a dragon, for example. It was hilarious to watch. As the performance continued, the daylight slowly faded. It was very dark by the time the play finished, and watching the performance became even more special. The stage was lit up, and the lights attracted fireflies which flitted around the lamps.
Final Verdict: We would recommend booking an outdoor play, particularly Pride and Prejudice, but others, we are sure, will also be magical. It’s a great afternoon and the ticket costs are not expensive (just 13 pounds).