Lovers and Liars : A David Garrick Double Bill
(Actor playing ‘Biddy’
When first approaching the text, and looking in particular at how best to embody our characters and which of their traits to develop and focus on, it seemed only natural to consult with the biographies of the actors who comprised the original cast. Charlotte, as Dramaturg, led this initial exploration which we then furthered by researching the actors relevant to our respective roles. For me, this involved looking into the stage career of Jane Hippisley, who played Biddy in the 1747 production. Through this I learned that Hippisley led a comparatively successful career but was often cast as a maid figure, as her “great humour, spirits, smart lively voice, and agreeable pertness”recommended her to such parts. Our research was then useful to bear in mind during rehearsals, especially for characters such as Jasper – who we realised was originally played by a renowned comic actor whose facial expressions amused audience members without him having to speak – as this goes part way to explaining why the character is so seemingly underdeveloped in comparison to others within the play, thus guiding us to explore in more detail the physicality of the role.
To this end, we have spent time this week learning about the traditions of Commedia dell’arte, and assessing which stock characters can be related to our roles within the play. Lauren began by showing us a video tutorial on the gestic characteristics of each stock figure, and from this we experimented with the physical traits that could be assimilated into our versions of the characters. For Biddy, this meant adding a flourish and grace to some of her arm and hand gestures, while Chris’ Sir Simon developed greatly under the template of the “Pantalone” figure, taking on miserly hand movements and beady, direct looks from side to side which will hopefully help to steer the audience away from a sympathetic view of the character (a previously discussed concern, as Biddy treats Sir Simon with a contempt which could alter the audience’s perception of her, if Sir Simon’s behaviour does not appear to warrant such derision).
Our research has therefore helped to troubleshoot a number of problems that initially sprang from the text, and we continue to welcome any new influences that can inform our characters and keep our performances fresh as we edge ever closer to opening night!
“The Theatrical Review” quoted in A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London. 1660-1800. Volume 6: Garrick to Gyngell.