What are they thinking?!
In any production, there are big parts and there are small ones, writes Hayley Blundell.
The upcoming of production of Pride & Prejudice is no different. I play Charlotte Lucas, the rather practical and unromantic best friend of the wonderful Lizzie Bennet. Charlotte is held back in social situations and playing this role had challenged me to consider the internal thought process of some of the characters, and the interesting conversations characters may be having when they are not centre stage.
The play opens with the iconic scene with Mrs Bennet’s screeching. We always know what Mrs Bennet is thinking, but what of Mr. Bennet? He stays silent, letting his wife work herself up into a frenzy. Andrew, who is playing Mr Bennet, has conveyed some of Mr Bennet’s thoughts:
“Mr Bingley is definite marriage material for my eldest, but I am going to keep my thoughts under wraps… Bingley’s manner is well matched with Jane and I am quietly and calmly hopeful for them. And now for some fun with the Mrs.”
The only social amusement for many, balls at the Assembly Rooms were an opportunity to dance, gossip and flirt in a “most refined way”; but what conversations are going on?
Linda, who plays Lady Lucas (my character’s mother), revealed she is reminding Charlotte that she needs a husband, and she is not to let these new wealthy gentlemen be snatched up by the Bennet girls.
Hill, the Bennett’s housekeeper, works tirelessly. In this production she is the bearer of many letters but what is inside the mind of Hill? Tracy has put a lot of research into her character and reveals:
“I like order, I do. I run a tight ship. Regular routines are essential to the smooth running of a household, as they are to the well-being of its residents. The Good Lord knows it takes little enough to set my mistress off, to say nothing of the foolishness of the younger girls! Little did we all suspect what upheaval would ensue when nearby Netherfield Hall was taken by a young man of considerable fortunes…”
When Jane falls ill while visiting Netherfield and is obliged to stay, Elizabeth visits her. The onslaught of insults and indifference from Miss Bingley begins while Mr Bingley remains mainly silent. Daniel shares his character’s thoughts:
“My sister can be snide sometimes, passing judgement. Whilst in her view, the Bennets are of a lower station, it seems unfair and ill judged to prejudice Miss Elizabeth as she has only the best intentions of her family at heart.”
The arrival of Mr Bennett’s cousin, Mr Collins, turns the Lucas and Bennet households upside down. After being turned down for marriage by Lizzie, Mr Collins next tries to engage Miss Charlotte Lucas in conversation. Tim, who plays the socially awkward vicar, is exploring a new side to the character:
“It sometimes feels the conversation has run away with him. I try to play him with a sort of benign confusion, waiting for the right moment to deploy one of his tired, prepared comments!”
There are so many interesting and complex characters in Jane Austen’s novel and they come to life in this production adapted for the stage and directed by Rebecca Dallaway and Hannah Tomlinson. Book your tickets to come along and remember amongst the thrilling dialogue to take a moment to examine the faces of the other actors who have revealed a little of their hidden thought processes.
Hayley plays Charlotte Lucas in the Dulwich Players' production of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Rebecca Dallaway and Hannah Tomlinson.
To be performed at the Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College from 19th to 22nd February.
For ticket information, visit https://www.dulwichplayers.org/book-now
[Image: A Hopeless Case by George Goodwin Kilburne]