Lovers’ Vows in performance (a review)

November 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm (books, entertainment, history, news) (, , , , , )

It is RARE that one hears about performances of the “play within the novel” — used by Jane Austen in Mansfield Park — of Mrs Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows – and I’ve a treat for Two Teens Readers: a member of its recent audience who was enthusiastic about writing a short review!

Contact information for the performing group – Artifice – is included in the links. Now: On with the Show…

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Lovers’ Vows by Elizabeth Inchbald, 1798
Performed by Artifice at Groundlings Theatre, Portsea [Hampshire, England]
13 November 2014

This was a bustling, engaging production, the action spilling from stage to auditorium, and every door fair game for an exit or entrance.

Frederick, an impoverished junior officer, returns to his village after five years’ absence to obtain his birth certificate, without which he cannot obtain promotion. His mother, Agatha, who brought him up alone, tells him in great distress that he has no certificate because he is illegitimate. Her lover vowed to marry her, and at his request she promised not to name him as the father of their unborn child. He broke his vow to her, but she kept hers to him and was disowned by all who knew her. Frederick insists on knowing who his father is, and Agatha reveals that he is the present Baron Wildenhaim.

Frederick is bitter about Wildenhaim’s treatment of Agatha, who is now destitute through ill health, and by mischance the two men clash without knowing each other’s identity. Tragedy seems inevitable, but Frederick and Wildenhaim eventually avoid it by exercising forgiveness and good will, and they embrace as father and son.

There’s no escaping Jane Austen’s Northamptonshire Novel, which Artifice acknowledges through the hair and dress of Wildenhaim’s daughter, the only character who doesn’t wear uniform or occupational costume. But forget the Mansfield Park prism.

Lovers’ Vows is not a frothy romance. With a versifying butler to delay the plot and ratchet up the tension, Inchbald trumps Shakespeare’s tedious porter in Macbeth. And the denouement’s requirement that social distinctions give way to fairness was a dangerous proposition for 1798.

Artifice’s motto is ‘Classical plays in beautiful places’, and this production was perfect for Groundlings’ distinctive eighteenth-century venue – the Beneficial School, or the Old Benny as it is known locally. Where else would the barman come out from behind the bar to treat his patrons to a lively, pre-performance history of the theatre, ghosts and all? Artifice, come back soon.

Charlotte Frost
author, Sir William Knighton

Lovers' Vows [Artifice]

Amelia [Mairi-Clare Murphy] visiting Frederick in prison.

artifice

 

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Clue to Kutzebue

January 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm (books, entertainment, europe, jane austen, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Thanks to the “power” of the internet, a question five years in the making, has been answered! Danke, Sabine!

A letter written in 1833 regarding a trip into Derbyshire by Mamma, her three unmarried daughters (Fanny, Eliza, Maria), and the Austens – not only Edward and Emma but also Edward’s sister Caroline Austen, has been used as a source in my Persuasions article “Derbyshires Corresponding: Elizabeth Bennet and the Austen Tour of 1833” (the 2008 print article also appears online).

In the midst of discussing the beauties of Derbyshire, the letter writer draws on a memory – but I was never sure quite what memory had been stirred…

The original transcription read:

– Ashbourne is quite small, & the town all very close together: Eliza made me look out of the bedroom window of our nice little Inn when it grew dark, she was so struck with its likeness to one’s idea of the street scene at Crackwinkel – do you remember when Sabina & [Thuars; Sh???ars] hide themselves behind the dark lamp post? there was just such a one in the little narrow street there, & even Spurling’s window. —We got up at 6 the next morning to make a little sketch…

I have searched for this; my guess at the time was ‘sounds like a book?‘ But what do you search for? Look up Crackwinkel and Google asks if you mean “crack winkel”… Not a help!

And Sabina’s company, the loss of that second name meant I had only SABINA to search for. Not a help either.

But the place name, ending in Winkel, pointed to something in German. I’m still not sure whether Maria has written the character’s name as Sabina (an anglicized version of the correct German spelling, Sabine) or that Spurling isn’t what she writes. The letter came to me as a xerox, AND it’s cross written!

I emailed my Sabine (whose delightful blog is Kleidung um 1800), a picture of the paragraph, but she had already cracked this old nut.

I’m going to include the photo, and if you would like to see if you can decipher this section of the letter, click on the photo to enlarge. The answer to the puzzle will be given after the “MORE” link in this post.

1833 letter-2

The lines begin 2nd line from the top. You will see …windows are beautiful — Ashbourne is quite small… Keep reading. Read the rest of this entry »

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