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Staged Reading of 'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith

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Crossway Church

282 Summer Street

Franklin, MA 02038

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I Capture the Castle, a delightful coming-of-age novel by Dodie Smith (also author of The One Hundred and One Dalmatians), has been adapted for the stage by Cari Flynn of The Slackville Players. Permission to stage this rehearsed reading is granted by Laurence Fitch Ltd/Film Rights Ltd. Narrator Cassandra Mortmain chronicles the financial struggles, hilarious misadventures, and unexpected joys her family experiences while living in a castle in 1930s England.

Here is an excerpt from the script:

CASSANDRA: [To the audience, sitting with her feet on the chair to her left, as if she is writing in a journal] I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with the tea-cosy. This is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left. Drips from the roof are plopping into the water-butt by the back door. I tell myself that all the rain we have had lately is good for nature, and that at any moment spring will surge on us. I try to see leaves on the trees and the courtyard filled with sunlight…

[Rose enters, Stage Left]

It is comforting to look towards the kitchen fire, near which my sister Rose is ironing—though she obviously can’t see properly, and it will be a pity if she scorches her only nightgown. (I have two, but one is minus its behind.) Rose looks particularly fetching by firelight; although I am rather used to her I know she is a beauty. She is nearly twenty-one and very bitter with life. I am seventeen, look younger, feel older. I am no beauty but have a neatish face.

I have just remarked to Rose, “Our situation is really rather romantic—two girls in this strange and lonely castle.”

I see nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud.

CASSANDRA: [To the audience] I must admit that our home is an unreasonable place to live in. Yet I love it. The house itself was built in the seventeenth century, but it was grafted on to a fourteenth-century castle—with two round towers in it. The Gatehouse is intact and Belmotte Tower, all that remains of an even older castle, still stands on its mound close by.

I am writing this journal partly to practise my newly acquired speed-writing and partly to teach myself how to write a novel. It ought to be good for my style to dash along without much thought, and let the words flow out of me.

I wish I knew of a way to make words flow out of father. Years and years ago, he wrote a very unusual book called Jacob Wrestling, a mixture of fiction, philosophy and poetry. It had a great success, particularly in America, where he made a lot of money by lecturing on it, and he seemed likely to become a very important writer indeed. But he stopped writing. Mother believed this was due to something that happened when I was about five.

We were living in a small house by the sea at the time. One afternoon when we were having tea in the garden, he had the misfortune to lose his temper with mother very noisily just as he was about to cut a piece of cake. He brandished the cake-knife at her so menacingly that an officious neighbor jumped the garden fence to intervene and got himself knocked down. Father explained in court that killing a woman with our silver cake-knife would be a long, weary business entailing sawing her to death, and he was complete exonerated of any intention of slaying mother. But father made the mistake of being funnier than the judge and he was sent to prison for three months.

When he came out, he had already begun to get unsociable—it was then that he took a forty years’ lease of the castle, which is an admirable place to be unsociable in. Once we were settled here he was supposed to begin a new book. But time went on without anything happening and at last we realized that he had given up even trying to write. Most of his life is spent in the gatehouse room, and, as far as we know, he does nothing but read detective novels that Miss Marcy, the librarian and schoolmistress, brings him from the village library.

Oh, poor father.

Mother died eight years ago, from perfectly natural causes. I think she must have been a shadowy person, because I have only the vaguest memory of her and I have an excellent memory for most things. Three years ago, during father’s one spasm of sociability in 1931, a stepmother was presented to us. She is a famous artists’ model who claims to have been christened Topaz. She is very beautiful, and uses no make-up, not even powder. She has a very deep voice—that is, she puts one on; it is part of an arty pose. But her kindness is perfectly genuine and so is her cooking. I am very, very fond of her--

[Topaz enters Stage Left and pauses at the end of the stage]

CASSANDRA: [To the audience] --It is nice to have written that just as she appears on the kitchen stairs. She is wearing her ancient orange tea-gown.

TOPAZ: [With three velvety inflections on each word] Ah, girls…

CASSANDRA: [To the audience] She is twenty-nine and had two husbands before father (she will never tell us very much about them), but she still looks so extraordinarily young. Perhaps that is because her expression is so blank.

Rose is staring at Topaz with a discontented expression. I can often tell what Rose is thinking and I would take a bet that she is envying the orange tea-gown and hating her own skimpy old blouse and skirt. Poor Rose hates most things she has and envies most things she hasn’t. I really am just as discontented, but I don’t seem to notice it so much.

ROSE: Topaz, why don’t you go to London and earn some money?

TOPAZ: I don’t think it is worthwhile, because it costs so much to live there.

CASSANDRA: [To the audience] It is true that she can never save more than will buy us a few presents—she is very generous.

TOPAZ: And two of the men I sit for are abroad, and I don’t like working for Macmorris; I’ve had more trouble with him than I should care to let your father know.

ROSE: I should have thought it was worth while to have a little trouble in order to earn some real money.

TOPAZ: Then you have the trouble, dear.

CASSANDRA: [To the audience] This must have been very annoying to Rose, considering that she never has the slightest chance of that sort of trouble.

ROSE: [Flinging her head back dramatically] I’m perfectly willing to. It may interest you both to know that for some time now, I’ve been considering selling myself. If necessary, I shall go on the streets.

CASSANDRA: [To Rose] You couldn’t go on the streets in the depths of Suffolk.

ROSE: But if Topaz will kindly lend me the fare to London and give me a few hints—

TOPAZ: I have never been on the streets and rather regret it, because one must sink to the depths in order to rise to the heights.

CASSANDRA: [To the audience] [This] is the kind of Topazism [that] requires much affection to tolerate.

TOPAZ: And anyway, you’re the last girl to lead a hard-working, immoral life. If you’re really taken with the idea of selling yourself, you’d better choose a wealthy man and marry him respectably.

CASSANDRA: [To the audience] The idea has, of course, occurred to Rose, but she has always hoped that the man would be handsome, romantic and loveable into the bargain. I suppose it was her sheer despair of ever meeting any marriageable men at all, even hideous, poverty stricken ones, that made her suddenly burst into tears. As she only cries about once a year I really ought to have gone over and comforted her, but I wanted to set it all down here. I begin to see that writers are liable to become callous.

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Crossway Church

282 Summer Street

Franklin, MA 02038

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Refund Policy

Refunds up to 1 day before event

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