Friday 30th September- Restoration Comedy

The aim of these sessions as always is to learn about theatre between Shakespeare and Queen Victoria. Leah’s presentation earlier in the week focused on Restoration Comedy and the purpose of this session was to explore further into this and look at some restoration plays. As I learned from Leah’s presentation, there was no theatre for 18 years, therefore, when it was restored, everyone went over the top to push the boundaries as they were finally able to experience theatre again.

We were shown images of costumes and makeup worn in restoration theatre, with examples including:

Image result for restoration comedy costumes
Very over the top costumes and make-up. Small pox scars were covered by drawing black spots on their face, something that ended up becoming a trend.

Restoration plays were not naturalistic which is hinted in the above images and I learned that characters were named based on their characteristics. It was simple to tell the personality of a character just through their name. For example, we looked at plays including ‘The Country Wife’ (1675) and ‘The Way of the World’ (1700). ‘The Country Wife’ has a character called Mr Pinchwife who in the play, takes measures to ensure that Mr Horner does not pinch his wife (1). In ‘The Way of the World’, there is a character called Young Witwoud who is known to be a wit in the play (2) and there is another character called Mincing. It is quite clear that by the same, this character is a servant and lower down in the classes. The different characters in these plays made me realise that these plays create a world of types in the play, not a world of individuals.

After talking through some of these characters, we then talked about the typical types that would be found in a restoration comedy and quickly we were able to come up with: two lovers but there is always an obstacle blocking them, servants of a double act, one clever and one clumsy. Other types that Lynn mentioned included a fat character who always fell over, two old men (one was a miser who doesn’t want a certain man to marry his daughter), a doctor, lady of the house, rival and two types of vicars, one hypocritical (pretends to be a vicar and religious).

We went back to ‘The Way of the World’ to look at one of the monologues, Lady Wishfort from act 4:

‘Well, how shall I receive him? In what figure shall I give his heart the first impression? There is a great deal in the first impression. Shall I sit? –No, I won’t sit — I’ll walk — aye, I’ll walk from the door upon his entrance; and then turn full upon him. –No, that will be too sudden. I’ll lie — aye, I’ll lie down — I’ll receive him in my little dressing-room; there’s a couch — yes, yes, I’ll give the first impression on a couch. –I won’t lie neither, but loll and lean upon one elbow, with one foot a little dangling off, jogging in a thoughtful way — yes — and then as soon as he appears, start, aye, start and be surprised, and rise to meet him in a pretty disorder — yes — oh, nothing is more alluring than a levee from a couch in some confusion. –It shows the foot to advantage, and furnishes with blushes, and recomposing airs beyond comparison. Hark! There’s a coach.’

For this exercise, I was paired with Jack and James who directed me to perform this at the end of the session. We wanted to make this monologue as comedic and over the top as possible to match the restoration period. To do this, I started off by pacing and when I sat, I sat in unnatural positions. I later did this again when I laid down on the sofa to look seductive and have her practice her seating for when Sir Rowland arrives. To add more comedy into the piece, at the section ‘start, aye, start and be surprised’, I acted startled, realised I was not looking towards the door and repeated start to the door where Rowland would enter. At the end, with ‘Hark! There’s a coach’, I was sat on the sofa, was startled at a noise and after speaking the line, fell off, this would have added comedy as the actions are the complete opposite to the seductive manner she was hoping to show.

When performing this piece, the main thing that went wrong was kicking the chair over as I then had to stop to get the chair back, which put me off slightly. I feel that I could have been much more over the top but I was able to remember all of the actions which did get reactions from everyone. I really enjoyed portraying Lady Witwoud in this session, many of my monologues are serious so it was great to play something different and comedic. However, this monologue is out of the time period for drama school auditions which for classic usually want a monologue from Elizabethan or Jacobean times so I wouldn’t be able to use which I am disappointed at.

1: http://www.enotes.com/topics/country-wife/characters

2: https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/w/the-way-of-the-world/character-list

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