Friday, August 12, 2011

Regency House Party

I recently discovered a television series called Regency House Party via the book list on Stephanie Ann's blog World Turn'd Upside Down (the list is extensive and I have copied down many titles to look for at the library). According to IMDb, the series ran 4 episodes in 2004 and ran on Channel 4 in the UK and PBS here in the US.

The series follows several eligible young men and young women (accompanied by their chaperones for propriety's sake!) from the real world as they explore how life would have been for a person of their money and status back in the Regency period. Wearing period costume and eating period food, these modern folks have to follow period restrictions in every aspect of their lives for the two months at the Regency House Party.

Just like in most of Jane Austen's novels, these men and women are supposed to form romantic attachments to each other, guided by the chaperones and their own hearts. Its rather interesting to see who ends up with whom, since each person knows the "ranking" and financial status of the others. Love or money or status seems to be the question in this series just as it was for people in the Regency period.

The series also explores things that were new and fashionable during the Regency, such as Gothic novels and boxing and gas lights and plastination (which is the preservation of dead and dissected bodies). Race issues are also touched on, through the boycotting of plantation products such as sugar and the mid-series presence of a black heiress and a black performer.

I quite enjoyed the series, though the 4 hour-long episodes were not something to be watched all in one sitting. Many of the costumes worn by the people in the show were also worn in some of the beautiful and well-made BBC film adaptations of Regency-era novels. I had fun trying to spot the items that were being re-used and match them to the proper film (I was pretty unsuccessful!). The series also alerted me to several other similar series taking place during the colonial era and the Edwardian era, to name a few. I plan to watch them all over the next few weeks.

The full series is available on youtube or you can purchase or rent or borrow the DVD. There is also a companion book available through Amazon and probably other booksellers, though I didn't look too far.

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