That’s right, one week to go and Mrs Bennet isn’t the only one struggling with her ‘nerves’! The rest of the cast and I have been working VERY hard over the past few weeks to bring this Austen classic to life and now we are at the final stages. The set is up, the props are being gathered and scripts are being left behind.
Last week we focused on the epilogue; the letters. This scene has been specifically added to our adaptation by our directors after they were inspired by a performance at the Theatre Royal Bath.
With four proposals, three Regency dances, two confrontations with Lady Catherine and one kiss with Mr Darcy, rehearsals are well under way.
It has been 6 weeks since our Pride and Prejudice journey began and oh so much has happened!
Including all of this…
Meet the Bennet sisters!
And when we’re not in regency dress we like to relax with our other favourite cast member, the Athenaeum’s giant bear, aka Mr Darcy’s understudy…
With less than 7 weeks to go before our first performance, rehearsals have been in full swing. .We started by blocking the play whilst we had use of the stage, focusing on projection, space and entrances and exits. From here we rehearsed in the Function room three times a week, looking at the closer details of each scene. So far I have been particularly focusing on my more ‘main’ scenes including the famous first proposal from Mr Darcy… ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you’. Johnathon (Mr Darcy) and I have been working closely on this scene to achieve the maximum emotion that is portrayed. It has been challenging and at times tiring (as I’m in every scene!), yet we are all thoroughly enjoying this exciting journey!
We have all been very busy trying to learn lines…
We even had a competition to see who could take a picture with their tote bag in the most interesting place. I believe Sir William Lucas won when he captured this in Venice!
And how are the Directors feeling so far…
“We are very happy with the progress made so far. The cast are working very hard to get “off book” and their hard work is beginning to show. Behind the scenes things are coming together nicely. Our producer is getting props organised. We have a soundtrack. We have a little over 6 weeks to go and I am feeling confident about the standard of this production. Tickets sales are coming in as people take advantage of the early bird offer.”
While discussing Austen’s novels, as we are wont to do on a daily basis at the Jane Austen Centre, two of our Centre staff, Jenni and Naomi, got into a discussion about whether Mary Crawford can really be painted as “a bad guy” as so many seem to think she is. “If she’d been in any other novel”, said Naomi, “she’d have been the heroine. She’s got a lot in common with Lizzy Bennet.” Then, as fate would have it, the very next day we at the Jane Austen News heard about the upcoming Fanny vs Mary debates…
The first day of the debate takes place on Claudine Pepe’s blog, Just Jane 1813, on Monday October 23rd. (We know at least two people who’ll be following the discussions with great interest!)
“Don’t Patronise Teenagers”
“We’re more than capable of enjoying classic literature” says Emily Handel, a Year 11 student at Tavistock College in Devon.
This week we came across a marvelous article on TES by Emily Handel, which argues that classic literature isn’t being presented as something which is suitable for teenagers. At least, it’s not something which they are recommended to read. Emily thinks this is something that needs to change. These are just a few of her reasons:
It is relevant to today’s teens. I picked up Anna Karenina, unsure of what to expect. Due to its classic status, I was worried I might find it obscure. In fact, I found the opposite was the case. I was incredibly moved by the story, finding myself completely swept up in the characters’ continually fluxing emotions.
Being 15, I can’t help but feel that it’s difficult to break away from reading young adult novels. Teenagers are marketed to as if these are the only books for us.
Don’t misunderstand me; there are some fantastic ones (I’ve read Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses more times than I can count), but only picking titles from this category is hugely limiting for adolescents. Why do we need to label novels “young adult”? Good books can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age. I still love to read Winnie the Pooh.
We need to tear down the prejudices surrounding writers from the past, and respect them for what they are: brilliant, insightful people who wrote, in the words of Jane Austen, “works in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature … the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language”.
Certainly we’ve found that the young people who have visited the Jane Austen Centre and who have read classic novels (some of them even before their teenage years) have made similar remarks to those of Emily. Emily’s full article can be read here.
Looking For An Audio Version of Pride and Prejudice?
If you are, then you might like to try this recording of Pride and Prejudice made by Essential Audiobooks.
This year two of the company’s narrators, Catherine O’Brien and Pearl Hewitt, have been are nominated for Best Voiceover in the Classic Audiobooks Narration category in the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences Awards for their interpretations of the books. Catherine is nominated for her reading of Pride and Prejudice, and Pearl for her rendition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
“We’re breathing new life into these old classics. Our highly skilled storytellers put their own unique spin on the books, and that’s what makes them so special.” – Essential Audiobooks CEO and nominee, Catherine O’Brien.
(In the course of our reading about Catherine and Pearl’s nominations, the Jane Austen News also came across the surprising news that audiobook publishing is now the fastest growing sector in the publishing industry, with a global value of over 2.8 billion dollars. An interesting trend.)
Austen Well Worth A Read
While having a look for discussions on classic books (yes, at the Jane Austen News we really are such book fanatics that this is something we do in our spare time) we came across a post on BuzzFeed asking “what classic novel should everyone actually read?” An intriguing question, we thought…
As it turns out, it wasn’t an article so much as a request for comments from readers of the article. Scrolling down we were delighted to find that lots of the comments were recommending Jane’s Pride and Prejudice as a must-read novel for one and all.
This was our, and the BuzzFeed community’s, favourite comment:
If you’d like to see what other books were recommended, you can find the full list of comments here.
Elizabeth Bennet In Our Midst
If you’ve been keeping up with the Jane Austen News newsletters over the past few weeks, then you probably already know that one of our Jane Austen Centre guides is currently in rehearsals for a stage production of Pride and Prejudice. Zoe will be playing her literary heroine Elizabeth Bennet, and she’s been keeping us up to date with all the latest from her rehearsals.
This week she had some snaps of the Bennet sisters in costume to share with us:
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Today was the day that every girl dreams of… meeting Mr Darcy. Matthew Macfadyen set the bar pretty high, not to mention Colin Firth coming out of the lake with a soaking wet shirt on… and then of course my favourite line of all ‘My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ Just perfection. So it was with no surprise that I was a little, well shocked, to meet my already-happens-to-be-married-with-two-kids-Mr Darcy. That’s not how the story’s meant to go?
Hello again! Yes, as you’ve probably figured out, today was the ‘Meet ‘n’ Greet’ for the cast of the Athenaeum Limelight Players’ Pride and Prejudice (https://www.janeausten.co.uk/austen-mania/ – read my first entry here). A great day was had by all and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet the other members of the cast, discuss plans for the rehearsal process …and eat Pride and Prejudice cake!
Here’s how I got on…
The whole group started with an ice breaker/warm up technique, ‘Zip, Zap, Boing’; a very fun game in which you have to pass the clap or the ‘zip’ around the circle and then various rules get added to make it a simple (although it was quite tough!) but effective method to not only break the ice between new people, but to challenge our reaction times and cues. (This will in time help our reactions and cues on the stage.)
Heather and Adela made the rules more competitive, if anyone hesitated or made a mistake – you were out. We were dropping like flies and unfortunately I didn’t make it to the final 8.
After the boundless laughs we had with this, it was time to cut the Pride and Prejudice cake (cue the excitement!) and then we had the chance to properly meet and talk to one another.
Once the very wonderful ‘Meet n Greet’, which directors Heather and Adela organised, had finished, I got the chance to ask them a few questions …
“WHY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE?”
H: “For me the choice was easy. It is the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death and P&P was always my favourite story. The rags to riches story with a twist. A feisty heroine who in a time of little choice for women, knew her own mind. This story is a reflection on Jane’s own life. A woman who broke from the mould of society”
A: “It’s my favourite of all Jane’s novels with Emma and Persuasion close behind. I have read and re-read everything she has written, and my favourite Darcy is Laurence Olivier whom I saw aged 16 when I did P&P for O level English Lit.”
“WHAT CHALLENGES LIE AHEAD?”
H: “I can’t wait to start this production we have the perfect cast but with a large cast there will also be challenges. Not to mention my first time directing anything!”
A:”My biggest challenge is having Heather say at the end that I was a colleague she enjoyed working with, who gave her every opportunity to learn directing, and a cast that has loved every moment of the process”
That’s all from me, find out next time what went on in our first proper rehearsal!