Lovers and Liars : A David Garrick Double Bill
(Head of Design and Dramaturgy)
Managing both the design teams and the research teams in the production of The Lying Valet, my main crossover has been design research itself and the design research process has in the least been an eventful process so far. Our main challenge, has been being stuck between two eras for the setting of The Lying Valet.
The play was written in 1741, and both the dialogue and acting style directed in the text suggest an 18th century performance will give the comic pay-offs and performance traditions their best chance of success for a modern audience. However, the financial depression felt by Gayless, alongside the flamboyant characteristics of such players as Mrs Gadabout and her entourage, have a considerable British 1920’s ring. The difficulty here being, that myself and the design team spent weeks 2-4 religiously exploring every possible avenue of Garrick and 18th century theatre; the interesting elements of which were items such as the exploration of commedia dell ‘arte from the 1540s, and how the traditional stock characters founded there could so broadly inform the comic performance of our actors, and more specifically to design, Garrick’s role in sentimentalising theatrical art during the 18th century. Matt was particularly excited about Philippe de Loutherbourg’s work in 1781 on creating ‘a virtual world which appealed to all five of the senses’ – using sound and smell to create a theatre within a theatre was an element that we were keen on using to inform the aesthetic for The Lying Valet ; taking our audience right back to the 18th century in all elements of our use of the space.
Of course, it is difficult not to feel that your labour has been made redundant when the decision was made at the end of week four to set The Lying Valet in 1929 – a few months before the great depression. Promised that we would be able to use our 18th century research to inform our taking the play over a century further forward, we pressed on with this new direction, finding interesting links between the 2 periods. The American tradition of Vaudeville in the 1920’s greatly informed the fashion and styles of the Brits – and Theatrical Revues began to spring up in the 1890’s, staging an evening of variety acts that were reminiscent of the lengthy theatrical bill that Garrick had supported in the 1700’s. The Lying Valet and Miss in Her Teens are both farcical afterpieces by tradition, so the informed setting of 1929 would still enable us to work with the other group in creating ‘an evening of 18th century theatre’, as our marketing teams had planned.
We now sit in a fairly uncomfortable position, with two fantastic eras all researched, ready and waiting to be explored; but with 29 days and counting until opening night, it cannot help but make a dramaturg / designer feel slightly on edge.