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Blog

Restoration Theatre Workshop: over two days starts with a history of Commedia Del’Arte (so very crude and bawdy) and how it has been the basis of all character comedy and sitcoms since. Think; Norman Wisdom, Lee Evans, Basil Fawlty, Manuel, Frank Spencer. Day 2 starts with separate sessions: 1) The restoration. Here we go again, that old politics and religion chestnut! Still, at least theatres and playwriting were back, thanks to Charles II, after having been shut by Cromwell. 2) Team Comedy.  A short leader with a tall gangly henchman – just so cliché but much funnier than the other way around. 3) Expanding the moment. How to take a simple stage direction and play with it to make it (hopefully) funny. 2 hours to produce a 7/8 minute ‘playlet’ without a director...Well what can I say? Two hours flies by but we get ours together just in time for the first of five very naughty, funny, clever and entertaining shorts. I’m impressed at how liberated some people were.
 
Restoration play rehearsals: David Wylde, our tutor, is an incredibly nice and knowledgeable man and I think I am going to get a lot out of this block. We start with his warm up routine and then get our parts and the cuts to make it the usual 1 hour performance. After that, it’s straight into working a scene using exercises similar to those used in our acting classes – no read through and no blocking. Not only does this help understand the characters’ intentions quicker, it also helps get the lines in quicker. I’m playing Gripe, a tight-fisted and crotchety money-lender in a play called The Confederacy. It’s a great role with a nice emotional range and colour so I’m hoping it will serve me well.  Along the way we all get little jobs to do to help understand and develop our characters – writing love letters, task lists, sets of rules – and anything that helps with physicality and gestures.
 
Within a few days I know all my lines and a great deal of the character’s thought and purpose are established. On day 4 the focus is on the smaller things to get the whole thing flowing so that nothing stands out as odd and on day 6 we do our first full run.  Day 7 is our technical and dress rehearsal day. The director sets up his cues with the resident technical manager whilst we do whatever needs doing prior to doing our cue-to-cue walk through. After that David improves the epilogue and curtain calls and we do a full dress run. There are a few general notes but not many, so he then works on selected scenes.
 
Restoration play productions:  It’s the first of the shows – The Way of The World, containing the flamboyant characters, innuendos and situations that is typical of the majority of restoration plays. Then came The Country Wife, in a similar vein but looking at both country and town-based folk in a crossover of location as well as status. The following morning we work on the little things as noted by the director after Sunday’s dress run.  We do a rehearsal and take a break before watching the third group perform first.  This time it’s The Provok’d Wife, and once again it has all the features of the first two but with a subtle difference in the theme. Generally, men are after women, women are after men, men hate women, women hate men and the fact that one or all of them might be married or promised is neither here nor there!  At 4 pm it is our first performance, and as is the way of these things, it whizzes by really quickly - and one never knows if all the training and rehearsal one has put in has made itself apparent at the right time.  The audience laughed and appreciated it for what it was, and David’s comment afterwards that ‘you all did everything that I asked of you.  Well done’, was sufficient to answer any doubts.

I have enjoyed every moment of the whole block, from workshop to performance and have learned a great deal from it.