This paper is a theatre research paper documenting the appropriate approach to staging the female gender in a restoration comedy production of William Wycherley's The Country Wife. The paper considers dialogue, staging, sound and costumes in addition to the historical context of gender references in Restoration theatre.
As an additional research aid, this paper also provides a critique of the central research sources in undertaking the paper.
The proliferation of restoration comedies symbolized the English renaissance, marking the liberation from puritanical censorship of public stage performances towards the increased sexuality and prurience in plays through satirized depictions of marital relationships and society. This in turn marked an important change in the portrayal of female gender. Indeed, Copeland highlights the point that:
[...] Moreover, in considering context in any production of The Country Wife particularly with regard to staging gender, it is important to note that renaissance theatre introduced female actresses for the first time and presence of women on the English stage for the first time accounts for many of the new ingredients found in the comedy of Restoration” and highlights the exhibitionism running through the plays”. However, Styan highlights the point that new actresses hardly brought a feminine delicacy or compassion to the relationships between characters”. [...]
[...] Moreover, the Country Wife is a classic aristocratic restoration comedy and the staging of gender (particularly female gender) would be imperative in any theatre production as the central female protagonists Alithea and Mrs Pinchwife clearly mirror stock restoration comedy characters. Therefore, in directing these characters, the actresses playing them would have to undertake prior research with regard to gestures, movement and speech of the restoration period, which is characteristically flamboyant, comedic and dramatic (See Figure 1). To this end, Callow highlights the need to evaluate the actual code of speech and the behavior that is implied in the text for any actor portraying the female characters in restoration comedy. [...]
[...] To this end, the inclusion of reference to leading essays in the topic and a particular focus on the staging of gender issues was vital in considering how to approach the representation of female protagonists in a production of the Country Wife Dobree, B. (2008). Restoration Comedy: 1660-1720. Read Books. The central utility of Dobree's work is to discount the proposition that France was the main contributor to English restoration theatre. Whilst, it is submitted that French restoration drama was clearly influential, Dobree's research is important in considering the Elizabethan influence on restoration theatre and to this end, provides a useful social and historical perspective on restoration comedy Glasgow, R. [...]
[...] In summary, therefore the staging of restoration comedy is inherently complex and in terms of acting direction, arguably requires the restoration transformational approach to highlight the interrelationship of complex multi-layered themes, particularly in the representation of female gender, which is imperative to Wycherley's social commentary in the Country Wife. Moreover, the transformational presence inherently requires adherence to restoration period female behavior in combining the subtle nuances of female desire, coquettishness and repressed sexuality. Bibliography Auslander, P.(1997). From acting to performance: essays in modernism and postmodernism. [...]
[...] His central thesis in “Restoration Comedy in Performance” is that restoration theatre was a unique form of theatre in terms of the direct interplay between stage and audience. Moreover, Styan argues that understanding the relationship between the performance approach and text of restoration theatre is imperative in appreciating the value of restoration theatre as an art form; particularly as Styan applies the contextual history of the restoration period to the practical aspects of staging a production and acting styles. Styan's research and knowledge into the performance of restoration theatre is extremely wide and makes extensive reference to key restoration comedy playwrights and contextual reviews. [...]
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