nichollsretirementproject

recidivism (ri-sid’i-vizm), n …

… defined as ‘the habit of relapsing into crime.’  Also popularly used to describe the situation where prisoners, once released from jail, soon find themselves back behind bars.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to us last Friday. No sooner had we been released from the clutches of HMP High Down, than we found ourselves being processed back into custody and this time it was serious.

This time, we had to empty our pockets of everything, go through airport-style scanners and then we were tagged and branded!  (When I say ‘branded’, I am perhaps guilty of a little bit of exaggeration, or perhaps a modicum of poetic licence. We were actually stamped with invisible ink, that only showed up under ultra-violet light.  It didn’t actually burn itself into our skin!)

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So why were we back in jail?  Was it because we had been caught stealing the cutlery from the restaurant at lunchtime?  Was it because the cheque that I wrote to pay for lunch had bounced at the bank? No, we were going back to jail to watch a musical.

“A what?”,  I hear you cry. Yes, that’s right, a musical.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce to you, the Pimlico Opera Company!

Since 1991, this inspiring company has been bringing music into prisons.  Thanks to the support and encouragement of  the very enlightened Governor of High Down Prison, Pimlico Opera had just spent the last four weeks casting, setting, rehearsing and staging its own production of Les Misérables  within the walls of the prison.  We were there on opening night of a week long run.

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Most of the principal roles were taken by members of the opera company, but some of the lesser roles and most of the chorus were drawn from the prisoners themselves.  For four solid weeks, prisoners and their operatic visitors had been incarcerated in the gym of the prison, as the show started to take shape.

At lunchtimes, the visitors would go to the Clink restaurant for lunch and the prisoners would go back to their cells, before resuming in the afternoons for more rehearsal.

The opera company principals were, of course, all professional singers, but for these four weeks they were also singing teachers and acting coaches to a group of men, who, for the most part had never sung, never acted and for many of them never even stood on a stage in front of an audience before.

The effect was electric! A brillaint show!

None of the prisoners who had solo singing roles would win a singing competition in the near future, but what they lacked in tunefulness, they more than made up for in commitment to their roles.

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The show ran for two hours without an interval and at the end, the entire audience of about 250 people rose to its feet.  A standing ovation!  Not a few members of the audience had tears in their eyes.

The principals came out to acknowledge their applause and then moved aside.

Then the prisoners came forward to take their bow and suddenly the professionals were nowhere to be seen.  They had left the stage, and the limelight, entirely to the prisoners.  The audience cheered as a group of about twenty men grinned and laughed and hugged each other in the sheer excitement of having achieved something that none of them would have thought possible four weeks previously.

In a short speech at the end, the governor, an impressive woman in her forties, spoke with great humanity about the importance of what we had just seen.  She was in charge of a prison of 1200 prisoners and didn’t underestimate the logistical and organisation difficulty of allowing an outside opera company to come into the prison on a daily basis to work with prisoners, Not to mention challenges around getting audiences of 200 to 300 people in and out of the prison for the each performance.

But she was entirely supportive of the whole enterprise, because she saw her role not only as keeping prisoners in prison but also trying to ensure that, at the end of their sentences, they didn’t come back.  She said that, for some of the prisoners who had performed for us, this will have been one of the very few times in their lives when the could feel proud of themselves and what they had achieved.  Lack of confidence and lack of self esteem we both major contributory factors in offending behaviour.

As she concluded her remarks, a prison officer came forward and whispered in her ear.

“Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen,”  she said.  “I’ve just been informed that the prisoners have now all been safely returned to their blocks, so we can now release you!”

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The centre pages of the programme for the show contained a quotation that summed up what is going on at HMP High Down.

“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country.  A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the state and even of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry of all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerating processes and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if only you can find it, in the heart of every person – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.”

And who said that?  Winston Churchill, House of Commons 1910.

 

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Go to Jail. Go directly to Jail.

Well, I did try.  It’s just not that easy to get yourself sent to jail..

I had to start arranging it weeks in advance and even then, they only allowed me to be incarcerated for three hours.

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Welcome to Her Majesty’s Prison at High Down in Surrey.

Make no mistake.  This is a proper prison.  It has over 1200 prisoners, …

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a lot of locked doors …

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and an awful lot of razor-wire.

The buildings themselves are modern, so the living facilities for the prisoners are decent.  But a prison is still a prison and being in prison means that you lack many things, but one thing that is not in short supply if time.  Time to be very bored, time to get very depressed, time to get into senseless and brutalising conflicts with other prisoners, time to learn the ways of more hardened criminals, time to reflect on how useless you are and time to sink into hopelessness and despair.

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HMP High Down contains men serving a few months for relatively minor offences and others sitting out life sentences.

So what’s wrong with that?  Surely offenders need to be punished and that’s what prison is for, right?  Yes, of course.  The problem is that in the UK, out of every hundred men released from prison at the end of their time, around fifty will be back in jail by the end of the year.

That leads to an awful lot more human misery, both for the criminals themselves and the victims of their crimes, but it also represents a huge burden on the state, that has to capture, prosecute, try and lock up, feed and house all these returning criminals.

This fact was not lost on one Alberto C.  who was the catering manager employed to look after the catering at HMP High Down in 2009.  Alberto was surprised at the number of released prisons who found themselves back in prison after  a short and unsuccessful period of freedom on the outside. He also recognised the potential in some of the prisoners working in the kitchens under his supervision.

After a lot of discussion and with the backing of an enlightened Governor, Alberto started to introduce City & Guilds National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in Hospitality and Catering, so that prisoners would leave the prison with at least some qualifications that they could show to potential employers.

However, Alberto’s ambitions on behalf of his charges went beyond equipping them with the ability to flip burgers in a hamburger restaurant  or frying sausages in the Greasy Spoon Café on the side of the A34 to Northampton.

He wanted the men that qualified in his kitchen to have at least a fighting chance of landing and keeping a job in any restaurant in the country.  How do you train men who have never picked up a pair of oven gloves before to produce meals that could be described at ‘Fine Dining?  The answer?  Set up a proper restaurant where the men can learn to cook for, and wait upon, discerning, paying  customers. The result …?

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And that’s where we were yesterday. Lunch in the Clink.

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OK, so nothing’s perfect.  We had to use plastic cutlery – we were inside the walls of a men’s prison after all – and there was no wine, but having said that…..

My first course was figs with blue cheese and Linda started with pigeon and black pudding. Pretty swanky, eh?  And both were excellent.

Linda’s main course was fish and I chose the lamb.  I do not exaggerate when I say that the two lamb cutlets and the small pulled lamb pie topped with roast potatoes, garnished with carrots and broccoli was as good a restaurant meal as I can remember.  I have paid a lot more money for food a lot poorer in many restaurants before.

Our waiter, Jed, was a bit of a rough diamond, who referred to us incongruously and rather brusquely  as ‘you guys’.  He seemed ill at ease as he took our order but once we had said nice things about our starters, and not made a fuss about the fact that he had forgotten our non-alcoholic ginger beers, he relaxed a little and was happy to chat.

It turned out that he was serving a nine month sentence and was due for release next March.  He was a carpenter by trade and wasn’t sure whether he would go back to carpentry, which can often be an unreliable source of income, or whether to use his new qualification to seek work as a waiter and gain different experience.  His long-term ambition was to own his own pub.

He had had to apply for a position in the restaurant in competition with other prisoners and pass an interview before he was accepted.  He now works every day, Monday to Friday, and loves it.

I asked him what was so good about working in the restaurant and he replied that, if he didn’t have this job, he would be ‘on the block’ all day, every day, either watching television bored out of his mind or getting himself into trouble with other prisoners.  “The block can be a pretty dangerous place,” he said. “You have to keep your wits about you.”

The restaurant also serves as the staff canteen, and Jed commented that another advantage of working there was that the ‘screws’ talk to the prisoners differently in the restaurant compared to on the block.  ” I also get to talk to people like you,” he said.  “Normal people!”

Although the Clink is, to all intents and purposes, a proper restaurant, one thing they cannot allow is tips.  It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what would happen if waiting staff received money for their services, while kitchen staff, or those left on the block, did not.

So we were encouraged to leave gratuities in an envelop to be handed to the restaurant manager so that the funds could be used to buy whites, chefs’ hats, waistcoats etc for the kitchen workers and waiters.

As I was handing our envelop to the manager, I commented on the quality of the lamb I had just eaten. His response was, “Brilliant! Thanks for telling me that.  The guy who prepared the lamb has only been in training for a month, and that’s not an easy cut to get right. I’ll pass on your comment. He’ll be delighted!”

So what’s the point of all this?  Well, as I mentioned at the start of this article, re-offending is one of the most difficult and intractable negative aspects of the criminal justice system.  I’ll let the Clink speak for itself.

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Just, ‘Wow’!

Alberto, a lot of people have a lot to thank you for !

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More power to your elbow!

 

 

Springing up like mushrooms.

We saw our first one in the shadow of Brighton Pier.

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And then we started to see them all over town… at the train station, next to the Pavilion, even outside the OXFAM shop.  There’s even some in Hove, where the posh people live!

I refer, of course to Brighton’s latest contribution to keeping the nation fit, the Social Bike scheme.  There’s racks and racks of them – everywhere.

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It’s a great scheme.  Once you’ve registered, you pay 3p per minute to use a bike, with a minimum charge of £1 and a maximum of £12.00 if you keep the bike all day.

Alternatively you can sign up for a year for £72.00, which gives you an hour’s free travel every day.  If you go over your hour, the 3p a minute comes into play.

The whole thing is controlled from the little magic box on the back of the bike which tracks you on GPS and tells you what distance you’ve travelled, how long you have been out and how much it has cost you.

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The only thing that the magic box doesn’t calculate is the cost of the mug of tea and the bacon sandwich that is usually part of an early morning ride along the undercliff path to Rottingdean. (Distance 8.4 miles there and back)

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And the best part is that if anything goes wrong with the bike, you just lock it back into one of the stands and someone else comes along and fixes it.

Brilliant!

Where are we going?

This poster appeared in the window of an estate agent’s office near our house in Brighton last week. It stopped me in my tracks.

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The more I stared at it, the more I wondered where this country is headed.  It can’t go on like this. Something’s got to give.

I bought my first house in 1975.  It was a two up, two down terraced house in Carlisle.  It cost me £3,000.

I had been renting a house with two other young men in Carlisle for about a year, when I plucked up the courage to go and see a mortgage adviser.  I think I was starting to feel that it would be nice to have a bit more privacy and not to be getting up tight about the mess in the kitchen or the fact that no-one else would put the rubbish out.

I asked the adviser how mortgages worked and what it would cost me to buy my own house.

He was very patient with me and explained everything in words of one syllable, but as I walked down the stairs from his office, my first thought was “Oh Lord,  it sounds awfully complicated and grown-up and very long term.  Perhaps I’ll just carry on renting and stop worrying about the irritations of sharing a house with two others.”

Then one of my house-mates bought a banjo.

You would not believe how intrusive the sound of a badly-played banjo can be in a small house.  After a few weeks I went back to the mortgage adviser and asked him to explain the whole thing to me again.

I put my first foot on the housing ladder, where it has remained ever since.

How anyone in Brighton could get into home ownership today without winning the lottery or having unfettered access to the Bank of Mum and Dad is beyond me.

The hundreds of hyped-up delegates to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton last week cannot have failed to notice the number of people sleeping on the streets in the town centre.  With the freehold on a single garage going for £38,000, even with an up and over door, what hope do people have of being decently housed?

I think we have interesting times ahead.

 

The last scene of all your contrivances.

The more I got to know this play, the more I was convinced that Act 5 rather sneaked up on the author, Oliver Goldsmith.  It seemed to me that he reached the fifth act with all his plots lines and sub-plots neatly woven into a multi-coloured cloak of confusion, misunderstanding, social satire and general good-natured mayhem and then realised that it was time to bring it all to an end, so that his audiences could make their way through the darkened streets of London before midnight.

So… back to the story.

Kate Hardcastle has promised Sir Charles that if he and her papa should conceal themselves behind a screen, they would see for themselves the ardour of Marlow’s love for her.  When the play was originally produced in 1773, there was obviously plenty of room for a screen in Hardcastle’s drawing room.

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The Brighton Little Theatre had to think of a more creative and space saving place for the two old gentlemen to hide themselves while they eves-dropped on the conversation between Marlow and Kate.

So as Marlow professes his undying devotion to Kate…

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… the portrait of the two old friends that has hung at the back of the stage since the beginning of the play suddenly opens to reveal the two astonished listeners.

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To compound poor Marlow’s embarrassment, Hardcastle and Sir Charles come on stage to seek further explanations and to bring matters to a head. Sir Charles is mightily confused.

SIR CHARLES: (to his son Marlow) Charles, how hast thou deceived me! Is this your indifference, your uninteresting conversation.

HARDCASTLE:  What have you to say now?

MARLOWThat I’m all amazement!  What can it mean?

HARDCASTLE: It means that you can say and unsay things at pleasure.  That you can address a lady in private and deny it in public. That you have one story for us and another for my daughter.

MARLOW: Daughter! This lady your daughter!

HARDCASTLE:  Yes, sir, my only daughter.  My Kate, whose else should she be?

And so with the firm smack of dramatic irony ringing in our ears, Marlow is made aware of what we, the audience, have know for a long while.  He has been the well-deserved victim of the tissue of deceit spread out before him by the infinitely wily and irresistibly manipulative Kate Hardcastle.

Enter Mrs Hardcastle with her long-suffering son, Tony.  She is furious that her niece Miss Neville has eloped with Hastings but consoles herself that, at least, Miss Neville’s jewels are safe and will remain in the family.

Mr Hardcastle seeks to instruct his wife on the finer points of the contract under which Mrs Hardcastle has charge of the jewels.

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HARDCASTLE: But you know if your son, when of age, refuses to marry his cousin, her whole fortune is then at her own disposal.

MRS HARDCASTLE Ay, but he’s not of age, and she has not thought proper to wait for his refusal.

At this point, to Mrs Hardcastle’s consternation, Miss Neville and Hastings appear from the garden. Miss Neville has had a last-minute rethink about the wisdom of eloping with Hastings and leaving her fortune behind.

MISS NEVILLE:  In an hour of levity, I was ready even to give up my fortune to secure my choice.  But I’m now recovered from the delusion.

Much as she loves Hastings, she hasn’t altogether forgotten that being in possession of a considerable fortune is no bad thing either.

Hardcastle is delighted to see her back and calls Tony forward to launch the final twist in the plot.

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HARDCASTLE: Come hither, Tony boy! Do you refuse this lady’s hand which I now offer you.

LUMPKIN:  What signifies my refusing? You know I can’t refuse her till I’m of age, father.

HARDCASTLE:  While I thought that concealing your age, boy, would conduce to your improvement, I concurred with your mother’s desire to keep it secret.  But since I find that she turns it to a bad use, I must now declare, you have been of age these three months.

Tony is delighted with the news. The last thing he wants is to be tied in virtuous matrimony to his cousin, Constance.  He still has his sights set on the lovely Bet Bouncer.

LUMPKIN:  Of age! Am I of age father?  Then you’ll see the first use I make of my liberty. (taking Miss Neville’s hand) Witness all men by these presents, that I, Anthony Lumpkin, Esquire, of blank place, refuse you, Constantia Neville, spinster, of no place at all, for my true and lawful wife.  So Constance Neville can marry whom she pleases and Tony Lumpkin is his own man again.

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All that remains is for Kate and Marlow to be brought together for the inevitable happy ending to become a reality. And so it falls to Mr Hardcastle to give his blessing to the union of his darling daughter and the arrogant, bullying, lascivious, deceitful, predatory, money-driven and class-ridden snob that is Mr Marlow.

But, hey, a man has got to get his daughter married off somehow, doesn’t he?  Otherwise, she’ll be on the payroll for ever!

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MR HARDCASTLE:  Mr Marlow, if she makes as good a wife as she has a daughter, I don’t believe you’ll ever repent your bargain… So, boy, take her, and, as you have been mistaken in the mistress, my wish is that you may never be mistaken in the wife.

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ENDS

 

“I’m mistaken or I heard voices of people in want of help!”

Mr Hardcastle is taking an evening stroll in his garden and surprised to discover Tony in a state of some agitation. Tony tries to convince him that he has already returned from Aunt Pedigree’s house.

MR HARDCASTLE:  Forty miles in three hours.  Sure that’s too much, my youngster!

LUMPKIN:  Stout horse and willing minds make short journeys, as they say.

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Mr Hardcastle thought that he had heard voices in the garden and that it sounded as if someone was in need of help.  He was keen to know whose voices they were.  Tony tried to convince his step-father that the voices he had heard were just Tony talking to himself but the old man is sceptical.

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Hardcastle knew better than to trust Tony and his disbelief was confirmed when Mrs Hardcastle, blinded by fear and believing that the ‘highwayman’ was about to murder her son, breaks cover and throws herself at the feet of her bewildered husband.

MRS HARDCASTLE:  Take compassion on us, Mr Highwayman. Take our money, our watches, all we have but spare our lives.  We will never bring you to justice, indeed we won’t, good Mr Highwayman.

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HARDCASTLE:  I believe the woman’s out of her senses.  What, Dorothy, don’t you know me?

Mr Hardcastle helps his terrified wife to her feet and reassures her that she is safely back in her own garden.

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They then realise what Tony has done and that he has been responsible for all of the terrors of the night, at which point Tony has to make a hasty exit from the garden, pursued by his furious mother intent on retribution.

Mr Hardcastle, still bemused about what on earth has been going on, follows them off-stage.

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And so the play reaches its final scene and its denouement.  Will all be resolved at the end?  Will Hastings elope with Constance?  Will Kate and Marlow be reconciled? Will Tony be forced to marry his cousin and forsake the lovely Bet Bouncer?  What will happen to Constance’s fortune? Will there be a happy ending?

Hey, this is Restoration Comedy.  What do you think?

 

By my guess, we should be upon Crackskull Common!

The scene shifts to the bottom of Mr Hardcastle ample garden.  We know that we are at the bottom of the garden because there is a tree on the stage.  The fact that the table, Mr Hardcastle’s chair and the bench-cum-settee, which have featured in every scene so far,  are still on stage, reminds us that we are indeed in Brighton Little Theatre, and there is literally nowhere to hide the furniture.  So we have to rely on an expertly held tree and a change of lighting to transform Mr Hardcastle’s drawing room into the bottom of his garden at night.

Well, theatre is all about suspending disbelief, isn’t it?

Back to the story.  Hastings has been waiting at the bottom of the garden for Tony Lumpkin to bring him fresh horses so that he can complete his elopement to France with Miss Neville.

Unfortunately, Mrs Hardcastle has discovered the plot and has forced Tony to accompany her and Miss Neville to the dreaded Aunt Pedigee’s house forty miles away.

The wily Tony, however, in order to exact revenge on his mother, has led her carriage through the night on a long and tortuous journey, only to bring her and Miss Neville back to the place they started from.  As he explains to Hastings:-

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TONY:  You shall hear. I first took them down Feather Bed Lane, where we stuck fast in  the mud. I then rattled them over the stones of Up-and Down Hill. I then introduced them to the gibbet on Heavy Tree Heath, and from that, with a circumbendibus, I fairly lodged them in the horsepond at the bottom of the garden.

The hapless Mrs Hardcastle believes herself to be hopelessly lost and is very scared.

Tony, for his part, does nothing to allay her fears and relishes the opportunity of terrifying her even further.

MRS HARDCASTLE:  Whereabouts do you think we are, Tony?

LUMPKIN:  By my guess we should be upon Crackskull Common, about forty miles from home.

MRS HARDCASTLE:  O lud! O lud! The most notorious spot in all the country. We only want a robbery to make a complete night on’t.

LUMPKIN:  Don’t be afraid Mama, Two of the five that kept here are hanged and the other three  may not find us.

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At this point, Tony becomes aware of Mr Hardcastle who is out for his evening stroll around the grounds.  If Mrs Hardcastle should see him, Tony’s secret will be out, so he heaps yet more confusion upon the terrified woman.

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MRS HARDCASTLE:  I see a man coming towards us.  If he perceives us, we are undone!

LUMPKIN:  (Aside)  Father, by all that’s unlucky, come to take one of his night walks.      (To her)  Ah!  It’s a highwayman, with pistols as long as my arm.  A damned ill looking fellow…. Do you hide yourself in that thicket and leave me to manage him.

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Mrs Hardcastle hides herself behind the impressive stage tree and awaits her fate!

 

It’ll all work out in the end,

Act 5 opens with Mr Hardcastle welcoming his wealthy old friend Sir Charles, the father of the hapless Marlow.  the two friends discuss the various  ‘mistakes of the night’ and Marlow’s extraordinary behaviour towards his intended father-in-law.

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The two old friends laugh about Marlow’s tribulations, although Sir Charles is still doubtful that his son, whom he knows to be painfully shy in social situations with higher class women, could have behaved so badly.

Marlow comes in to offer his apologies to the gentleman whom he has treated as an inn-keeper.  Mr Hardcastle, generously benevolent as ever, tries to laugh him out of his discomforture, insisting that he was aware that it had all been a misunderstanding and that he felt no ill-will towards the young man.

MARLOW:  I come, sir, once more to ask for your pardon for my strange conduct.  I can scarce reflect on my insolence without confusion.

MR HARDCASTLE:  Tut, boy, a trifle.  You take it too gravely. An hour or two’s laughing with my daughter will set it all to rights again. She’ll never like you the worse for it.

Marlow is unconvinced and is determined to leave the house in which he has ‘suffered so many mortifications’.

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When Kate comes into the room Sir Charles, still puzzled over his son’s unaccustomed demeanour in his dealing with women, questions her on his behaviour towards her.

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SIR CHARLES: And how did he behave, madam?

MISS HARDCASTLE:  As most professed admirers do.  Said some civil things of my face, talked much of his want of merit and the greatness of mine, mentioned his heart, gave a short tragedy speech and ended with pretended rapture.

Sir Charles is incredulous.  He can’t believe his son capable of such forward behaviour, so Kate is obliged to set up another twist in the plot as it moves towards its inevitable resolution.

MISS HARDCASTLE:  Then what, sir, if I should convince you to your face of my sincerity?  If you and my papa, in about half an hour, will place yourselves behind that screen, you shall hear him declare his passion to me in person.

(Director’s note:  This line presented our director with a problem.  The Brighton Little Theatre is a little theatre! It seats a maximum of 71 in the audience  The stage is also tiny and every inch has to be used just to get the actors around the set.  The space behind the set is so narrow that it is impossible for two actors to pass in opposite directions at the same time as they make their way to make their various entrances.

So, on stage there certainly wasn’t room for any kind of screen behind which to conceal Sir Charles and Mr Hardcastle.  A creative solution had to be found.)

“I can read the outside of my letters well enough”

Hastings has gone to prepare the carriage for his elopement with Constance, but finds that the horses that Tony Lumpkin has promised him have not arrived.

In the meantime, Constance continues the pretence  of affection for her cousin, Tony, in the hope of throwing her aunt, Mrs Hardcastle, off the scent. Mrs Hardcastle must not discover the plans for the elopement!

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Mrs Hardcastle is delighted to think that Constance and Tony are getting on well, suggesting that, if they should marry, Constance’s fortune will remain in the family.

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Meanwhile, Hastings, in his frustration, sends a note to Tony asking for the horses to be sent forthwith so that he and Constance can make their escape.  Unfortunately, Tony, though a grown man, has not yet mastered the art of reading…..

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Constance, knowing that the letter is from Hastings, tries in vain to distract her aunt, but Tony insists that his mother reads the letter to him.

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What she reads does not please her.

MRS HARDCASTLE:  How’s this? (Reads) ‘Dear Squire, I’m now waiting for Miss Neville, with a post-chaise and pair at the bottom of the garden, but I find my horses yet unable to perform the journey.  I expect you’ll assist us with a fresh pair of horses, as you promised. Dispatch is necessary, as the hag’ – (ay the hag), your mother, will otherwise suspect us, Yours, Hastings’  Grant me patience. I shall run distracted.  My rage chokes me.

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Mrs Hardcastle resolves to thwart her niece’s plan and calls for a carriage to take her to her ‘old Aunt Pedigree, who will keep you secure, I’ll warrant me!‘ The dreaded Aunt Pedigree lives some forty miles away.

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MISS NEVILLE:  So now I’m completely ruined.

Tony is commanded to saddle his horse and accompany  Miss Hardcastle and Constance to Aunt Pedigree’s house.

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All seems lost for Hastings and Constance, until Tony, concerned as ever to extricate himself from any sort of liaison with Constance and be free to pursue the lovely ‘Bet Bouncer of these parts‘, has a bright idea!

Act 5 beckons.

 

Sure I have not mistaken the house!

So, as the audience files back in after the interval, Act 4 starts.

Having received the casket of jewels that Tony Lumpkin has stolen from his mother’s bureau, Hastings confides in his beloved Constance that he has sent the ‘baubles’ to Marlow for safekeeping, while he arranges for fresh horses to be brought. The elopement is due to take place that very evening.

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Enter Marlow who berates Hastings for being so careless with the casket of jewels. He popints out that the only safe place where he could keep such a precious treasure would have been under the seat of the post-coach that had brought them to the inn.  Since he didn’t consider that a very safe place, he had given the jewels to the landlady, i.e. Mrs Hardcastle, and asked her to keep them safe!

Hastings is horrified that his plan to elope with Constance and her fortune have been thwarted, but tries to conceal his consternation from his friend.

MARLOW:  Wasn’t I right?  I believe you’ll allow I acted prudently on this occasion?

HASTINGS:  (Aside)  He must not see my uneasiness.

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MARLOW:  You seem a little disconcerted though, methinks.  Sure nothing has happened?

HASTINGS:   No, nothing.  Never was in better spirits.  (Aside)  So now all my hopes of fortune are at an end and we must set off without it.

While Marlow is musing on his friend’s strange behaviour, Mr Hardcastle enters the room.  He has finally lost all patience with Marlow’s outrageous behaviour and resolves to turn him out of the house that very evening. In addition to his haughty manner and  his inappropriate advances towards Kate, Marlow, not being a drinker, has ordered his servants to “drink freely and call for what you thought fit for the good of the house.”  As a result, they have all got uproariously drunk.

HARDCASTLEHe’ll drive me distracted if I contain myself any longer.  Mr Marlow, Sir.  I have submitted to your insolence for more than four hours and I see no likelihood of its coming to an end.  I’m now resolved to be master here and I desire that you, and your drunken pack my leave my house directly”

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Marlow protests that, as a paying guest at the inn, the house belongs to him as long as he chooses to stay.  “What right have you to bid me leave this house, sir? I never met with such impudence, curse me, never in my whole life before.”

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This throws Hardcastle into an ever greater rage, during which he reveals that Marlow’s father, Sir Charles is expected at the house that very evening, “ and shall hear more of it!”

Hardcastle storms off leaving Marlow covered in confusion.

Marlow slowly starts to realise his mistake and asks Kate, still disguised as a maid, if she was indeed the barmaid of the inn.

MISS HARDCASTLE:  Inn?  O law, what brought that into your head?  One of the best families in the county keep an inn!  Ha ha, old Mr Hardcastle’s house an inn!

MARLOW:  O, confound my stupid head.  I shall be laughed at all over town.  I shall be stuck up in caricatura in all the print-shops.  The Dullissimo Maccaroni.  To mistake this house of all others for an inn and my father’s old friend for an innkeeper!  What a swaggering puppy must he take me for!

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To add insult to injury, he realises that he has been treating Kate as a barmaid, rather than as the poor relation of the family that she now purports to be.  (She still doesn’t reveal that she is the daughter of the house, i.e. the women he has travelled up from London to meet.)

He resolves to leave the house forthwith, even though, as he confesses, he is developing tender feelings towards Kate.  She feigns tears at his decision to leave, but as he explains,

MARLOW:  Your partiality in my favour, my dear, touches me most sensibly, and were I to live for myself alone, I could easily fix my choice.  But I owe too much to the opinion of the world, too much to the authority of a father, so that, – I can scarcely speak it – it affects me.  Farewell.  He leaves the room.

Kate has now seen the softer side of Marlow’s character and is much impressed.

MISS HARDCASTLE:  I never knew half his merit till now.  He shall not go.  If I have power or art to detain him, I’ll still preserve the character in which I stooped to conquer but will undeceive my papa, who, perhaps, may laugh him out of his resolution.

The path of true love proceeds along its way with only a couple more twists and turns to negotiate.

 

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