Written by Emma Fisher
Student on the second year of the 2 Year Diploma in Professional Acting
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when somebody says Restoration Comedy to you? Admittedly mine was “oh that crazy over the top acting with wigs and white faces” - and that’s just the boys! However day 1 of our Restoration workshop quickly made me realise it’s about so much more than that, I mean, even the fans have a language of their own…
Learning about the history of the period taught me that it’s no wonder these plays are typically so big and bold after years of stuffy Puritan reign and it was interesting to learn how Restoration Comedy influences can be found in modern day plays, films and tv shows. Wonderful workshops with Didi Hopkins in Commedia Del Arte, Cathy Weate in Restoration Voice and Darren Royston in Period Dance really helped to get a feel for the era and remind me that actually these were real people once upon a time.
That being said, approaching our characters super objectives was pretty simple. Apparently they’re all after money or pleasure or a combination of the two. And p.s. that’s usually in sexual form. Which also explains why Restoration Comedys tend to be full of sexual innuendos... s’cuse the pun. As our brilliant director for The Country Wife David Wylde told us at our first rehearsal; there’s no need to go into psychoanalytical depths about super objectives – they want what they want and that’s that. None of this Chekhovian, ‘I want to be loved because my father never loved me because his father never loved him’ nonsense.
Like with Shakespeare, your relationship with your audience is crucial and therefore acting in a Restoration comedy literally calls upon every bit of you as an actor: technically, physically and emotionally. Consistent voice support and athletic articulation being key, so that you can really relish the language and knock out a bit of verbal fencing with your fellow actors.
All that being said, if these last few weeks have taught me anything, is that acting in a Restoration Comedy is just as much about being truthful as any other type of play – in fact it’s even more important that the core of your ‘character’ is real – in a pure, primal way, as this gives you the strong foundations to allow yourself to potentially completely transform and grow into something bold, extraordinary and sometimes grotesque but importantly, still human.