Friday, 24 October 2014

A Time for Pride and Prejudice

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

- "Chapter 1" of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
 This famous opening line begins a tale which turned 200 years in 2013 and I just saw it at the local theatre recently, in the form of a husband and wife act.

I will profess I have never been obsessed with this novel, or that singluar man known as Mr. Darcy of whom almost every other man, fictional or otherwise, has since been measure too from the moment this character walked off Austen's pen.

I have read the book countless times for high school and university, disecting and dismembering its meanings and purposes but still, it remained ellusive.

Until tonight. I had the front box to myself (being a Thursday evening performance and in Bury) and avidly fell into the spell of the theatre. Sparse though the set was, with a simple parlour and just the two actors, flipping out props, undoing skirts or turning coats into them. Making little coughs, slight vocal changes and trapezing back and forth in a classic Regency dance of characterisation.

Characterisation. Simple characterisation. Characteurs.

Kitty was identified by a chirpy cough. Mrs Bennet by excessive hand-waving and scarf. Mr Collins by ridiculous flamboyance and a vicar's hat. Mr Darcy was straight-backed and stiff. Jane fluttered around, a timid butterfly and Mr Bingley showed his emotions, slumped in a chair, striding about a room or valiantly bowing.

In order for the audience to follow along the two actors had attacted clever symbols to each of the characters. Clever ones I say because they turned these timeless characters practically into characteurs of humanity. Except, even as you had the exciteable and socially obsessed younger sisters of Kitty and Lydia, the outspoken Lizzy, the stoic and proud Mr Darcy, the snobby Miss Bingley or Lady Catherine de Burgh, they are not flat like characters from medieval morality plays (which have characters who are both called and literally are, Prudence, Death, Pride, Envy etc).

They are functional characters and yet, they have such qualities to make them timeless.

They have pride, envy, they have narrow-mindedness, they have brown-nosing and greed, desperation and acceptance.

The truths in this story which are so universally acknowledge that it is still read, performed and studied today, is not that a man in possession of a fortune, must desire a good wife, it is that humans are social creatures and socialing means communicating, which means stories are told.

These stories take the form of prejudiced first impressions, the knowledge that you are richer and therefore better than everyone else and most of all, the rules of how all members of a society interact and react against all others.

The reason Pride and Prejudice remains interesting to us today, regardless of whether we ever read the book (there were quite a number of men there yesterday evening who had never read or seen hide nor hair of a plot point of the story), lies in the game of society.

Human interaction.

 And so the tale begins.

Perhaps certain elements of how we interact, what is right and proper, has changed, but there are still unspoken rules and regulations which govern our lives.

For as long as there is pride and prejudice in this world, there will always be a time for Pride and Prejudice.

Presently listening to the gorgeous soundtrack to the 2005 film.

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