The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Grasmere Play.

by Edith Fisher.
Volume 15, 1904, pg. 214-215

Every winter the life of the lovely village of Grasmere, set in its ring of hills and bright with its shining lake, is made busy and happy and lifted out of its normal ruts by "the Play." Not that kind neighbors from big houses share their theatrical diversions with the village, but that the villagers play a play among themselves and that the rest of the village, and the quality if they will, come to see.

And they do will, and are even known to go to two out of three performances and to enjoy themselves heartily as the village itself and to laugh and cry with the best.

This year Miss Charlotte Fletcher, daughter of a former Rector, wrote for the fourth year in succession a play which, as before, certain able friends on the spot have taugt to willing learners. The coaching, following on an instinctive choice of players, has brought out true gifts of humour and pathos, and all expressed in an atmosphere and in surroundings familiar to the players and spoken in the speech of their own fine vigorous dialect. And here the folk-lorists may rejoice, for through Miss Fletcher, valuable unwritten words and phrases have been saved and set down.

"Hester's Troth, a Village Drama," had the fitting distinction of opening the new Village Hall, a spacious and picturesque building without any aggressive newness, but falling sympathetically into the landscape.

Our plot proves simple, as it should do; Hester, a daughter of the village, is betrothed to Jim Saddleback, a young farmer, who, when ruin falls on Hester's home, goes back to South Africa at the bidding of the crafty Boss Gabblestone to recover some lost diamonds, with the promise of such a payment as will set Hester's heart at ease for ever for her old parents. Through the dark difficulties that follow, Hester is faithful to her troth and all ends well at last. But the characterization and the seizing of it by the players, as they give the vivid dialogue, is the main interest of the evening. No sweeter, truer, village maiden can be set before the eyes of the village than is impersonated in Hester Hartley: no more appropriately distasteful "company promoter" than Boss Gabblestone; whilst for fun and true humour the scolding wife of Sammy Slowcome carries all before her. But in fact there is plenty of good acting--the convincing hero of the piece, Jim Saddleback, the admirable secondary part of Dorothy, a friend of Hester's--to choose is to invidiously omit the rest.

The scene at the sheep-shearing gathering might be taken by an enterprising vendor of sun-bonnets for an advertisement of that charming head-gear and a death-blow to the crooked, overladen hat. The song sung--the orchestra of three belonging to one village family--is traditional, whilst in a simpler but charming ironing scene, the "Ironing Song" is written for the play by Canon Rawnsley and might become a tradition too--a song for laundry-workers everywhere, so keenly realistic and yet in spirit so transforming.

As to scenery, willing and able hands have painted that; as to properties, who in the village but lends for a whole week a table or curtains or what will serve, with generous haste?

The play makes socially for good, drawing people together by steady work in common, making many lives wider and brighter.

For the three performances this week are but the finishing stroke; unseen to those who come to enjoy are the weeks and months in which leisure or well-earned rest has been sacrificed in the cause of faithful and patient study. With an understanding playwright in Miss Fletcher and certain other happy lesser conditions, we have Grasmere Play the delightful thing it is.

That to follow in its difficult path and create plays and players in the villages of rural England would be to increase the joy of the nation, one cannot doubt; but the path is very difficult.

Typed by Mrs. Erica Wright, August, 2023; Proofread by LNL, August, 2023