Vol. 74, No. 3
pp. 141-214, 2020
The Inner Stage as Acting Space in Restoration Theatres
Juan A. Prieto Pablos
The introduction of scenery was quite possibly the most outstanding innovation in the Restoration theatres of London. Its most evident consequence was the visual representation of locale, by means of painted scenes on wings and shutters. A second consequence, and at times a rather neglected one in critical studies or Restoration drama, was a redistribution of acting space, which, for the first time in the history of commercial theatre, was divided into three distinct areas. In Richard Leacroft’s widely known reconstruction these areas are identified as the ‘proscenium’ or forestage, nearest to the pit, the ‘scenic stage’, occupied by the wings and shutters, and the ‘vista stage’ behind the shutters. The terms ‘scenic’ and ‘vista’ foreground the main function of these spaces but are misleading, for they preclude their recognition as acting spaces. A quantification of its occurrence and its usage can shed some clearer light on the full extent of the expansion of acting space beyond the forestage in Restoration theatre practice.
A Red Brick Building and a New Bay Window; rebuilding Sadler’s Wells in 1764
The history of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre is well known in general terms. My aim here is to place a picture of the theatre – the earliest surviving oil painting of the institution and one previously unacknowledged in the Sadler’s Wells literature – in the iconographical history of the venue. The picture, which shows the theatre and residence after construction in the summer of 1764, illustrates what was achieved during the works. The painting largely corroborates what we know of the structure, but it is done in oils and it gives us more reliable clues as to the colours of these buildings than we had before. The new brick and stone construction was noted not only as an excellent theatre but one that added some consequence to the surrounding district, and it is clear that the priority of the artist has been topographical, with an aim to show the building and its environs, rather than to develop an independent landscape painting.
Nineteenth-century Audiences: Behaviour and Misbehaviour at Birmingham’s Theatre Royal
Raucous behaviour, particularly that emanating from the gallery, had long been a characteristic feature of the Birmingham Theatre Royal audiences. Douglas A. Reid rightly cautions us to remember that gallery disturbances made good copy and that the eagerness of the Birmingham press to report them might have given an exaggerated impression of the problem (Reid 74). For reasons discussed more fully below it is likely that Birmingham managements would have been particularly sensitive to bad publicity for their theatre. From its opening the cost of admission to the gallery at the Theatre Royal was set at one shilling and so continued for many years, a policy which it seems reasonable to interpret as being influenced by a desire to price out ‘irresponsible elements’ and pre-empt riotous behaviour, as well as the consequential notoriety. if this was indeed the case, its prolonged maintenance, coupled with contemporary economic considerations, would suggest that the policy was viewed as having had some success.
British Radio Drama 1945-63, by Hugh Chignell
reviewed by Frances Gray
The Theatrical Career of Samuel Morgan Smith, by Bernth Lindfors
reviewed by Trevor R. Griffiths
Social Housing in Performance: The English Council Estate On and Off Stage, by Katie Beswick
reviewed by Alison Jeffers
The Inner Stage as Acting Space in Restoration Theatres *** A Red Brick Building and a New Bay Window; rebuilding Sadler’s Wells in 1764 *** Nineteenth-century Audiences: Behaviour and Misbehaviour at Birmingham’s Theatre Royal