18 June 2016

Day Ten: Lyme Park and York

It was a busy, exhausting sort of day.  Any day I have to get up as early as I would to go to work during the school year is obnoxious, but a bit easier to do when your day includes going on a Darcy hunt. (Even if Knightly is better.  Go Knightly!)

Lyme Park is about 100 miles south of Keswick, so, naturally, it was going to take us at least two and a half hours to get there.  (Have I mentioned how much I miss the efficiency of American roads? This was one of our more efficient drives - most of the places we've gone have been 20 miles away, but an hour's drive at least.  But I digress.) To be honest, I expected a more imposing experience with Lyme Park.  It is, after all, the famed filming location of the exteriors of Pemberly in the A&E Pride and Prejudice.  Come to find out that Lyme was only used for some of the exteriors, and mostly for the lake outside of it where Darcy made his infamous and rather dramatic dive.  Only he didn't make it there.  The lake he "dove" into was another lake on the property and it was done not by Colin Firth, but his stunt double.  The lake by the house is only a foot and a half deep, so Colin had to rise out of it and make it look more dramatic than it truly was.  Ah well. (I don't think any of that will erase any of the swoon value people seem to feel from that scene.  Truthfully, I just find it funny.  But again, I digress.)

Lyme Park itself was far less intimidating than any of the other houses we saw.  I can see why they didn't use it for any interior shots.  For one, it's far too cozy.  It is, by all accounts, the most cozy estate home I've ever been in.  The rooms walk that wonderful fine line between grand and comfortable expertly.  Their library was particularly cuddly.  (It had a cuddle bay window, no less.) The other thing that made Lyme unsuitable for filming interior shots was how crooked everything was.  The house was seriously tilted.  Nearly every room in the old wing and all the staircases were visibly slanted.  Many of these older houses are like that - built so long ago and before standardized measurements and the like that they are somewhat slanted, but it's never been so noticeable to me as in Lyme.  It was like walking through a fun house at a fair.

Quirks aside, I really enjoyed my visit to the house.  Perhaps it was because we were some of the first in for the day, but the guides were really chatty and helpful with information about the various features of the house and the family who lived there.  The original owners of Lyme were not landed gentry but self made through coal mining in the area.  They earned their title by being extremely loyal to the Stuart kings (and queens).  The house is full of Stuart honor - one of the drawing rooms had portraits of all the Stuart monarchs and the fireplaces had the coats of arms of James and Charles I over them.  It's a good thing I know my British monarchs or that may not have meant much to me.  This family was so loyal to the King that they were part of the plot to restore James II to the throne after William and Mary were invited to come in (James II was considered too Catholic by Parliament).  For this, Baron Newton was sent to the Tower of London for a spell.  (He was let out, which was lucky for him - not many did.)

After visiting Lyme we made our way to York, hoping to be in time for Evensong at 5:15 in the York Minster.  The York Minster (or Cathedral) is home of the largest collection of original medieval stained glass anywhere in England.  (Actually, it has more than all the other places combined).  We barely made the service (after spending nearly half an hour driving in circles in an attempt to find the Enterprise car return.  Our only instruction from Enterprise was "York Train Station".  Most stressful driving we did on our trip by far.) Evensong tonight was held in a side chapel sans music because the choir was participating in a play called The Mystery Plays held in the cathedral tonight.  On a whim we decided to go see it.

Boy was that an experience.

After a quick bit of research, we found that The Mystery Plays is actually one play - a pageant of sorts held in York annually since the 1300s.  It portrays some of the major moments from the Bible through to the last judgment.  Noting that it had great reviews, knowing our penchant on this trip for finding bizarre/awesome things in cathedral performances (remember "California Dreamin'"?) and finding out that tickets were half price for day of seats, we decided to go.

It was a marathon of a show - three and a half hours long in total.  Some parts of it were truly amazing, others really. . . special.


The whole setting - putting on a show in the cathedral itself - was grand and stunning and such a great opportunity.  Retrofitting a building that old for theater can't be easy, but it really was stunning.  It hasn't been presented in the cathedral for 16 years.  I'm glad it was this year.

The creation was gorgeous.  As the universe came together, giant balloons (and I mean GIANT) made the solar system.  It was really, really beautiful.

The Noah pieces were equally beautiful.  All the animal costumes were delightfully entertaining I particularly liked the people playing the butts of the elephants - behind the giant elephant heads and carrying the rest of the body was a person in grey with a hat on - that hat had the elephant tail that the person would shake now and then.  Very clever.  I also liked the poor rabbit who had to keep bouncing around, waiting anxiously for its female to show up.  I did feel badly for the Dodo birds who wanted to get on the ark but, alas, the door was closed (and for some reason, although Noah's sons were standing right there, they were not admitted.  Poor Dodos!)

I liked that amidst all the old fashioned costumes, there were also people in modern dress sprinkled throughout the scenes.  The cast was massive - it helped give the impression that the stories we tell are a part of us; that they are also symbolic of what we do and say and live and experience now.

The scene where Peter betrays Christ was done, at least partially, with Christ in earshot.  Although I don't think this is accurate to how it actually happened, it was, symbolically at least, the most potent part of the show for me.  The idea of remembering that, even though we can't see Him, He is there and knows our actions was well represented there.

And now, the awkward:

Adam and Eve's costumes were body suits that were strangely padded but also anatomically correct.  They fit so awkwardly that they looked a bit oafish and it was hard not to get the giggles a bit because it looked so clunky.

The scene where Herod's men killed all the infant sons was WOH, they really just did that! kind of crazy - the guards grabbed the doll babies and ripped their heads off. . . But all the heads were connected by about three feet of. . .I don't know.  Some kind of red, stringy sinew.  For the rest of the scene, the mothers carried their babies around with head in one hand and body in the other in great display for all to see.  That was exciting.

And finally, the just plain ugh:

Gotta love the blatant sexism that was going on.  Let's forget the obvious Eve bashing - there were things added into that script that I've never read in scripture (if someone can point it out then I'll redirect my eye roll from the script writers of the show to the writers of scripture.) For instance, Noah's wife was suddenly very anti-Noah.  She only got on the boat when dragged there (physically) and she complained the whole time.  It was used for the purpose of comedic effect, but ugh.  I don't need women to be saints, but really?  Then there was Pilate's wife, who was used (sort of - the plot got randomly dropped) by Satan to try and get Pilate to go back to lie with her (in the Biblical sense) so that he (Satan) could keep Jesus from being killed.  And then there was the even more exciting change of Judas from male to female.  I'm not really opposed to casting the best actors where you need them (this actress was legitimately great), but when your play is already filled with so much overt "women are Satan's tools!" messaging, it made me wish they'd cast her as, say, Peter instead.  Or John.  Whatever.

Ultimately, it ended up being like seeing a church pageant with an extremely awesome budget, location, and pipe organ. But, hey!  I can say I've seen a 700+ year old play in York Cathedral, so that's pretty sweet.

(Sidebar: If there are any strange typos in here, I blame my iPad.  It keeps wanting to correct anything I spell with an apostrophe to something of its own making.  Just three lines ago I caught it trying to autocorrect "They'd cast her" to "They' ducats".  When have I ever used the word ducats in writing?  Except twice just now?)

Tomorrow is a day of York exploration.  For now: bed.  Thank goodness.  I'm exhausted!

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