Lovers and Liars

Lovers and Liars : A David Garrick Double Bill

Performing and Creating an Early Modern Farce


Mike Owen (Sound Designer)

Mike Owen
(Sound Designer)

When I first approached the sound design for Miss in Her Teens, I was somewhat apprehensive. After reading the script, there is a distinct lack of any indication of music or sound effects. In fact, there is no mention of any specific noise throughout the text, music effect or otherwise. Whilst historically this wasn’t uncommon, this was new ground for me. It’s always difficult to invent a sound brief from complete scratch; it’s important to offer an authentic audio experience, whilst not overloading the show or distracting the audience’s attention from the action on stage.

After weeks of research, I focused on the works of the 17th Century composer, Henry Purcell. Purcell’s incidental theatre work of the late 17th Century and early 18th Century was commonly used for productions at the Drury Lane Theatre, of which our playwright, David Garrick, was the actor manager. Alongside the use of the works of Purcell, I will also be creating one main audio effect for the first act of the production.

The elements of the sound design for our show can be broken down into three key elements:

  1. The Live Band
  2. The Incidental Music
  3. The Soundscape

The live band, hopefully consisting of a string quartet, will be performing in the foyer of the TFTV department before the show and during the interval. They will be playing Purcell’s incidental music from the play, The Married Beau; Or The Curious Impertinent, Z603. Although not much is known about this play, my research tells me that it was a ‘sex farce’; a play set around the comedy of misunderstanding of pairs of lovers. Although not a complete relation to Miss in Her Teens, it does share the elements of dangerous courtships and multiple love interests. The tone of these plays would more than likely be shared, and this is reflected in the music for The Married Beau. There are a number of light-hearted pieces in the score of The Married Beau that will set the tone of the play it precedes.

The incidental music will be taken from another Purcell work, Amphitryon. The music from Amphitryon comes from the 1690 John Dryden play, is a translation of a 1668 Moliere play, which in turn is also based on the Greek comedy by Platus of the same name. These plays are also, in a sense, sex farces. The warrior Amphitryon returns from war, where the God Jupiter is sleeping with Amphitryon’s wife. The god Mercury disguises himself as Amphitryon’s servant in order to delay his arrival, but undeterred, he arrives at the house. An argument of confusion and jealousy ends with the birth of twins; both Amphitryon’s human son and the demi-god Hercules. The music, (although somewhat dark during some movements), fits the theme of secrecy that is found in Miss in Her Teens. This music will be used in two ways. Firstly, as tracks in full at the beginning and end of each act and secondly as edited clips in order to denote a change of scene and the entrance of a main character.

Lastly, I intend to create a soundscape for the first scene of the first act. In this scene, a number of our characters meet and reunite for the first time in the play. The setting is, however, a busy 18th Century street in London. Our cast, although somewhat sizeable, would be unable to recreate the noise and atmosphere of a crowded London street all by themselves, so the intention is to create this through the medium of sound. The soundscape will consist of the noises of horses and carts, the hustle and bustle of people passing in the street and birds chirping. The intention with the soundscape is to create a believable world in which these larger than life characters may exist.

You can listen to Amphitryon in its entirety here:

The sheet music for The Married Beau and Amphitryon can be found in: 
Purcell, H., The Works of Henry Purcell (Volumes 16 and 20), London, Novello, Stainer & Bell, 1957-2009


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This entry was posted on February 26, 2013 by in DESIGNERS.
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