Story for the Day: The Royal Theatre

Here is the first chapter from the new Haanta Series Novella: Tales from Frewyn: The Opera

The Royal Theatre 
                Beyond the main portion of Diras castle keep, between the memorial garden, dedicated to the kings and queens of Frewyn’s past, and the latrine tower, a place where everyone in the keep must visit but where no one wished to venture, was the Royal Theatre. It was called royal due to its origin in being constructed for the enlivenment and entertainment of the king and Frewyn nobility, but over the many years of its various exhibitions and staged depictions, with the declining gradations of quality in the performances and the diminishment of the general interest thereof, the theatre was opened to the Frewyn public for proper scrutiny, gapes and disparagement as the situation would allow. Grand balls in the royal parlour and private concerts became the amusement of choice for the Frewyn royals, and though the king still must sponsor the Frewyn Royal Players to tender affordable evening entertainment to the rest of his kingdom, while the productions were well executed, the originality and creativity of their displays soon waned. Old favourites such as One Man’s Woe and Mad Queen Maeve, the grandiose and colourful retellings of the more tragic moments in Frewyn’s history, prevailed and became traditions for the various seasons the threatre underwent, but to end the monotony of reiterating the same lines and singing the same songs, a new play was often introduced on the off-season, usually written by one of the cast with the hopes of such a production becoming a fever among the people of Frewyn as the others had done.
                Many attempts were made to capture the delights of the threatre-goers in this style and many times the players failed. The yeomanry, tradesmen, and artisans of the kingdom who were in want of a little evening entertainment at the end of the day were simply too well-versed in the arts and had too estimable an appreciation of writing, acting, and singing to be diverted by modest endeavors. They must have more for their hard-earned wages: they must have the pinnacle of performing arts, for they were not simple creature to be easily deceived by moderacy. Farmers left their seats and went outside to enjoy their pipes and good banter on the subjects of crop rotation and field mice; children fussed and fidgeted about, taking more pleasure in trying to step upon their friends’ toes than they could derive by watching the performance; women knitted and took to carpet work while discussing and comparing the various accomplishments of their children; babes cried and were fed, and the general disinclination of the audience to attend the given piece made the actors anxious to continue. Traditional plays were one thing, but new stories that the hale and hearty Frewyn spectators did not enjoy were entirely another. The distress and vexation the actors felt was expatiated by the audience’s unwillingness to regard them, and though Frewyns were never uncivil at first, tedium accorded was deserving of retaliation. Word soon reached the rest of the capital of the paltry attempts to entertain. A full theatre was reduced to half, the players grew despondent, and from their desperation to be adored, and from their worry of King Alasdair reneging his sponsorship, a new production of Mad Queen Maeve was staged and all good Frewyn society was disposed to return to their seats and marvel at the performance.
                Though the desires of the audience had been appeased, proven by their standing ovations and the increase in ticket sales, the aspirations of the Frewyn Players to perform something new and inspiring were yet unfounded. Everything that could be done to secure their livelihoods was done, but everything that could be done to secure their happiness and fulfillment was not. They pined for new lines, new characters, new dances and new songs, and their only reprieve from  the glaring uniformity came in concerts and festivities for the Frewyn holidays. A concert or two was given by the majesties to exercise their musical talents, the ballet of Sesterna made its annual visit, the acrobats from Lucentia came but twice a year when the weather suited their northern constitutions, and though these displays were enjoyed by the audience and therefore envied by the Frewyn Players, none besieged and confounded them all so well as the Marridon Opera. With voices so strident, subjects so catastrophic, costumes so outlandish and sets so refined, the opera more astounded than delighted. The Frewyn audience applauded because they knew they must to give propriety to their guests where it was due, but the amount of pleasure derived from such a performance was left to be guessed by each. Their general perplexity was mistaken for complete awe: the indiscernible feelings, the halfhearted accolades, the talk of not knowing what to make of such glorified tragedy was enough to convince the players of the opera’s magnificence. Only something so brilliantly contrived could amaze to such a degree, and the more it stunned, the more Frewyn would flock to it in hopes of understanding it.
                A Frewyn opera was therefore to be performed, and the subject of the recital but be one to which every Frewyn could relate. It must have love, it must have war, it must have loss and sanguinary themes, but above all it must be familiar. The Galleisian War was talked of and songs were even written for it, but while there was a certain romance in battle for those who had never fought one, there was even more romance to be found in another quarter: heroes of war must have their tales told, and two such Frewyn heroes would be the question to draw all of Frewyn to the theatre.

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