Pride And Prejudice at Basildon Park
Sally Stevens • Published 12 Jul 2012 09:30 0 Comments
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you book tickets for open air theatre in a British summer you will need to pack a waterproof along with your picnic.
Nevertheless, despite a gloomy forecast and Andy Murray playing in the men's singles final at Wimbledon, a stoic audience of around 200 settled into their picnic chairs in front of the dramatic backdrop of Basildon Park - setting of the Pride And Prejudice movie - on Sunday to enjoy Chapterhouse Theatre's production of the Jane Austen classic.
The small stage looked even tinier in front of the Palladian stately home, run by the National Trust, but the constant switching around of a couple of chairs and little writing desk was designed to add even more chuckles to a performance. This brought out the full humour of Austen's witty novel on the trials of sisters whose mother is driven by an embarrassing determination to marry them off and the stubborness of Emma Bennet and moody Mr Darcy to get over their grumpy first encounter and give in to their romantic destiny.
A cast of eight filled all 21 roles and acted as stage hands, tripping on and off stage speedily and even taking it in turns to play incidental music on flute and trombone in between costume changes - which was quite exhausting just to watch, let alone to achieve. And while the audience had an interval to enjoy hot drinks, soup and cake from the tea room, the cast sold raffle tickets and chatted to picnickers in character.
The pace made sure attention didn't wander to the gathering clouds and when the shower came and brollies went up the cast didn't so much as falter and not a ringlet drooped.
Sadly Chapterhouse Theatre is now taking its tour to Ireland but Berkshire audiences can still enjoy an outdoor performance at Basildon Park, which is near Pangbourne, on Friday, July 20, when The Pantaloons theatre company brings family show Grimm Fairy Tales to the grounds. It is based on the Brothers Grimm tales of wicked witches, talking animals, plucky maidens and dashing adventurers in what is described as ' a deliciously dark and thrillingly inventive show'.
Take my tip and arrive early for the best pitch, take picnic chairs as well as your picnic, a blanket for when the sun goes down - and a waterpoof - and don't miss out on the cakes in the tea room.
Grimm Fairy Tales, Basildon Park, near Reading RG8 9NR, 7pm. Box office 0844 249 1895 www.thepantaloons.co.uk
This article appeared in Reading Chronicle 12 Jul 12