Lovers and Liars : A David Garrick Double Bill
(Actor playing ‘Sharp’)
‘Garrick?… He wrote plays?’
That was my first thought when, at the end of last term, we were told what plays we were going to be performing for our Early Modern Production Project. I’d hedged my bets on them being, as with previous year groups, something French; Molière, Marivaux or perhaps Goldoni? The last thing I expected was to be performing a farce by the 18thcentury virtuoso actor-manager David Garrick who, just for good measure it seems, also tried his hand at playwriting! Though he did nick the plot for The Lying Valet from a previously written French farce, All without Money by Peter Anthony Motteux (1660-1718), Garrick, like he did with every successful role in his repertory, made the play his own. He changed the characters’ names, added in new plot twists, and saved the best part of the eponymous Valet, Sharp, for…well, himself. So, it is both an exciting and somewhat daunting prospect to be following in the great man’s footsteps in a play that, to my knowledge, has not been staged since its original performance at Goodman’s Fields Theatre back in 1741.
Rehearsals so far have been a combination of analytical, discussion-based work, games and exercises designed to ‘free’ ourselves mentally and physically when approaching our roles, in addition to staging the script. The analytical work, or ‘table work’, may sound tedious, laborious and plenty of other adjectives… BUT, it has been invaluable exercise for clarifying the reasons why the characters say the things they say and do the things they do, and is a stage in the rehearsal process that every professional company must go through. So far, I’ve counted 44 lies told by Sharp throughout the play; that’s almost a lie per page!
Given how crucial our ability to create physical comedy is going to be in this play, we’ve experimented with games and exercises in clowning taught by French actor/mime artist/actor trainer Jacques Lecoq (even at University level, that name still triggers unwarranted sniggers from the cast), as well as teacher/director John Wright in his extremely useful and insightful book, Why is that so funny? (Wright, 2006). And finally… the script itself. So far we’ve sketched out most of Act I, which has proven both fun and challenging in giving action to the words and plotting out the comic highs and lows in which the characters find themselves. I’ve already got bruises and scabs to show for my efforts, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more in the weeks to come!
(Actor playing ‘Melissa’)
We’ve started to block my entrance in Act one where we start to see the first few lies from the Lying Valet, Sharp. We started to work on Kitty and Melissa’s relationship and how Kitty wants to guide Melissa away from Gayless, without being too harsh. Melissa is completely oblivious to Sharp’s lies and Gayless’s financial states, or is extreme denial. Focusing on the different characters objectives has really helped us find our characters, as we’re in such an early rehearsal stage. We found that Melissa and Kitty’s master-servant relationship was really important so we played a game where we pulled each other’s arms when we were trying to assert ourselves. At the moment I think we’re really focusing on finding our characters, their flaws and their relationships with other characters to really get solid foundations for the play. We have been analysing the text really heavily and this extra work has really paid off as when we came to acting it out, the comedy in the lines was so strong and has given us a head start on character work. Even through these early stages the comedy is coming through so strongly!