Lectures are in the ArtsHouse: 10.45 for morning members: 13.30 for afternoon members.
Thursday 18 May 2017
Theatre-going in Georgian England 1715-1830
Speaker: Simon Rees
Simon Rees treated us to an amusing lecture about theatre goers in Georgian England between 1715 and 1830. During that time the theatre was the main place of entertainment all over the country and he managed to include not only pictures of those who were engaged in and watched spoken masterpieces but masterpieces which were sung as well. We saw examples of great paintings and cruel satirical prints as well as the decorations of the theatres themselves.
He began by showing us the inside of the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, Yorkshire where there was an intimate theatre space; the front cloth was of a Romantic painting. In those times painted scenery was kept and not painted over, so the theatre would always use the same ten scenes such as one of a palace or a street. These scenes were probably painted by Philip de Loutherberg. The London theatre season was in the winter so sailors were used as stage crew. They were not allowed to whistle on stage, as they did on ship to communicate commands, in case there was an accident and this remains a superstition in the theatre even today.
Under George 1 the King’s Theatre in The Haymarket became a lively part of London. The Theatre Act was introduced to control and censor serious theatre. Italian theatre was popular and Handel used castrati to sing his music and we were shown caricatures such as one of Farinelli who took on female roles.
Hogarth’s engraving entitled” A Just View of the British Stage” was a satirical view of the kind of drama which he felt had taken over the stage. Other Hogarths were explored such as Garrick as Richard 111. Also shown was “The Laughing Audience,” illustrating how much everyone is enjoying themselves.
Thomas Rowlandson was influenced by Hogarth and he depicted not only audiences such as” Box Lobby Loungers” of 1786 but also the internal structures of Georgian theatres. We were told many interesting facts about the theatre such as, at one point audiences showed their emotions openly so it would be obvious if the play was a tragedy or comedy, then the audiences were not to be upset so, for example, the ending of King Lear was changed!
He concluded by commenting that theatre is still as strong and living a force in society today as it was in the Georgian era.