Thursday, August 04, 2011

Costume drama

The people at the Château de Valençay do an interesting thing each summer season: they put on a show. Several actors are hired to perform little thirty minute plays in and around the castle during the day. When we arrived with our friends a couple of weeks ago, we were just in time for a performance.

The horse-drawn carriage that was part of the show, just coming out of the stables prior to going on.

The play we saw took place in the castle's courtyard. It involved the house servants preparing to put on a show (a play-within-a-play, that old device) for the master of the house, Prince Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. Or just plain Talleyrand, pour les intimes. The horse and carriage that you see above made its way into the courtyard and circled around a couple of times before parking off to the side. Very dramatic.

After a very slow start (fifteen minutes that seemed like an hour), the actors plucked a member of the audience out of the crowd, put a wig on him, gave him a cane (Talleyrand had a limp) and sat him in a chair to watch their "rehearsal" as a stand-in for Talleyrand. During an elaborately choreographed segment, the actors "built" their stage set by manipulating the various other set pieces, the largest being a farm wagon that they converted into an interior stairway, complete with a fireplace and a balcony.

As the play-within-the-play unfolded, we found out it was about mistaken identity and presumed infidelity and it ended with a dashing sword duel, to the delight of Julia and Conor who, by all appearances, were bored to tears with everything that went before.

I was bored to tears as well, even though I could understand the French. But the sword fight was lively and fun and it made up for having to sit through all the rest.

I didn't take any photos during the play, unfortunately, so you'll have to use your imagination. Or better yet, come visit Valençay in the summer!


  1. No, I think that we have been well warned off this Event!

  2. "I was bored to tears..." Aww, I think I would have rather enjoyed it, from your description. I really enjoy audience participation (as long as it's not me).

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Valençay a few years ago, thanks to your suggestion, Walt!

  4. I've never been to Valençay, but I've read about it. When I was at Vaux-le-Vicomte, there was a performance of a Molière piece out in the garden :)

    I didn't actually much care for Vaux-le-Vicomte, to tell you the truth. Also, it ended up very expensive to go there from Paris, especially because of the added cost of a required taxi ride from the train station and back.


  5. Historical reenactments really don't turn me on. We have something here that gets some all worked up, it's called "Renaissance Faire." Lots of jousting, wenches and shouting in Olde English. Does nothing for me. I enjoy your photo much more. Leave the play acting to the professionals I say.

  6. I don't need costumes to do drama! ;-) What is tailler les tifs?

  7. lesley, it's not that bad, really. I was a bit harsh.

    cubby, I hate audience participation. If I wanted to be on stage, I'd be on stage. If they're gonna pluck me up, at least pay me.

    bettyann, it's one of the fun ones!

    judy, yeah, that's a drive-to place for sure. But I enjoyed seeing it.

    ron, these are just little comedies to entertain the tourists, nothing heady or preachy. But I agree about historic reenactments. Make a documentary!

    cheryl, tailler les tifs = couper les cheveux.


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