Wednesday, June 01, 2005

How to be a Gentleman or a Lady

Following on from Alastair's idea of an Edwardian "boot camp", some pointers for the 'upper-class' members of the cast...

How to be a Gentleman
A gentleman is always neatly dressed, his clothing is never loud or ostentatious. His nails are always clean. His hair, beard and/or mustache is always neatly combed and free from dirt and oil. A gentleman avoids excessive use of pomades and scents. A gentleman carries himself erect but not stiff. He keeps his spine straight and shoulders back. A gentleman aspires to convey calm confidence rather than loftiness. A gentleman does not gesticulate with his hands when speaking nor should he put his hands in his pockets. His hands should hang comfortably at his sides or clasped before or behind him.A gentleman never smokes in the presence of a lady, on the street or in church. Smoking is for the smoking room in the presence of other smokers. A gentleman will always ask permission before lighting a cigarette. A gentleman must never, ever spit. When in the company of a lady, a gentleman must see to her every need and want. A gentleman never makes anyone feel awkward. Upon entering a room he greets everyone pleasantly and introduces his self to those he does not know.


How to be a Lady
A lady must be immaculately groomed at all times. She must wear the appropriate dress for each occasion. Her dress must be clean and becoming to her figure and never be composed of bright, garish colours A lady does not wear makeup. A lady’s hair must always be neat, pulled back from the face and free of dirt and oil. It is in poor taste to dye one’s hair. A lady’s hands must be soft and clean, her nails should be kept short and clean. A lady may wear a small amount of scent so long as it is an inoffensive and light scent.A lady does not cross her legs, even at the ankles, while sitting. She must not engage in activities that might cause her to perspire or breathe heavily. If she is too cold or too hot he must give no indication. Anything that detracts from the pleasure of society is in bad taste.When walking a lady takes short steps, less than the length of a foot. A single woman must remain decorous and keep flirtatious behaviour to a minimum. A lady must carry herself with respect and dignity and must convey gentleness. A lady walks with her back straight, and head and shoulders back. She must appear comfortable and at ease at all times. A lady should never appear stiff, nor should she appear to be lounging.


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

ATHMOSPHERE

Its all getting very busy at this end at the moment so you must forgive me for the lack of consistent reports and feedback!

However I can report on a £5000 gift coming in which is sorely needed and as we speak I am preparing for a meeting to secure an £8000 loan. So fingers are kept tightly crossed at the moment.

Recently I have been running a series of workshops for 10-15 year olds on Twelfth Night which at the end of an intensive period of just two days they put on a production of it- of sorts. It has been a fascinating experience- kids/teenagers have such a raw response to drama- one minute they can be dead to the world and the next minute and something ticks the play unfolds before their eyes and they just light up. It was a humbling experience to see some (not all) of these young people really getting under the skin of the language and the characters-

Anyway the point being here that they got me thinking- further to a conversation with Paul (Malvolio) last night we highlighted the importance of mood and athmosphere in this production . The Edwardians- at least the British Edwardians believed that the British be the centre of the worlds and like the Pope seemingly at one with the incarnate trinity; Cecil Rhodes that vile Edwardian war monger once wrote,


"If there be a God, It think that what he would like me to do is to paint as much of Africa British- red as possible and to do what I can elsewhere to extend the influence of the English-speaking race"

It is somwhat ironic that in an age where the British empire covered nearly a third of the globe, the era is characterised by the claustrophic smog of etiquette and manners and expectation and class. Which combined led the majority to lifes spent in a proximity not dissimiliar to their medievel ancestors.

Olivia for example is outwardly living the life of decadence- in the sun of Illyria riding the wave of the empire- and yet this wave has so smothered her that even breathing seems fraught. It would seem that her escape is her veil, her mourning clothes and the shut windows of the house in which she isolates herself as a seemingly pointed tribute to the former Queen Victoria who spent the second half of her life mourning.

The freedom from which she explodes- must be visible and the mood and athmosphere must be seen to lift, we are painting a series of moments and the shift from dark to light to dark to light and back again must feature inherently. This protracted point is just concurring with Gemma on her study of manners- if this athmosphere is to be seen by an audience it must first be learned- ideally you would all go away to an Edwardian boot camp-

....

in fact now I mention it-

hmmm

the idea has been planted-

more later!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Etiquette - shaking hands, and "thees & thous"

(Sorry if this post is a bit "Olivia-centric" - hopefully some of the points I've put down will be useful to someone...!)

Anyway, I have been thinking about the etiquette of Edwardian society, and how this impacts on the play. It seems to me that the unusually strong emotions the characters experience makes them break the rigid forms of etiquette that would otherwise bind them. Thus, Cesario's rapid advancement at Orsino's court, Olivia's blatant wooing of Cesario, Malvolio's disastrous wooing of Olivia... The whole play is full of people acting against the codes of behaviour that are laid down by Edwardian society.

These codes are evident in every word spoken and gesture made. For instance, how two characters shake hands speaks volumes about their relative status. In Vita Sackville-West's novel "The Edwardians" (which is a great first-hand insight into the period, incidentally) one of the characters realises that she is now persona non grata because of the way a social better shakes her hand:

"Her social vanity... had received its death-blow. She knew it, when she met the Duchess... and was given two fingers instead of three - she had never been given five."

Therefore, Olivia (for example) would give three fingers to Orsino, two fingers to Sir Andrew, and initially two to Cesario (though five the next time she sees "him").


The text also gives clues as to social status by the use of "you" and "thee/thou". At the time the play was written, "you" was used when speaking to someone of equal or higher rank, or when the speaker was being courteous and respectful. "Thee/thou" was more familiar - used when speaking to family, lovers or social inferiors.

Olivia calls Cesario "you", up until the point where she lays her cards on the table and tells him how much she loves him. After that, she calls him "thou".

Olivia generally calls Malvolio "you" - as Steward, he was a trusted and respected member of the household. This whole business of "you" versus "thou" leads to an interesting moment in the scene where Malvolio has come to Olivia in his yellow stockings - she calls him "thou" because he is, ultimately, a servant and one who is being totally inappropriate. But Malvolio must think she "thous" him as a sign of her love!

(NB. Shakespeare isn't totally consistent in the way he uses "you" and "thou" - heck, the guy never spelled his name the same way twice - but it does give some definite clues as to the characters' relationships).

Ummm, that's about it. Hope it's of some use to someone other than me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Politics

It is an interesting fact to me that in this Edwardian period or slightly after it the two men most prominent in public life ,both in the Liberal Party,of which I am a proud member(bring on the Elgar)said the following things:Asquith said after a visit there to see conditiond said "things are being done in Ireland"and he meant it in a negative sense.Lloyd George ,conversely,asked how much it would cost to reconolize Ireland.When told £40,000 he replied too much.
As Christopher Fry once said :"A man is two men really .He has a body and he has a soul,amongst his other troubles".So it was with Lloyd George and Asquith.Home Rule For Ireland!"/Troops Out!
PJ/Malvolio

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A GRANT AT LAST!

Just to let you all know we have our first (albeit modest) grant. Runnymede borough council have awarded us the princely sum of £1,500 and on top of this Corney and Barrow the wine merchants will probably sponsor the first performance at Dovedon Hall. So it seems at last as if things are beginning to move, long may it continue.

Sexual Politics

On Saturday I was keen to highlight how in this production I want to emphasise the sexual ambiguity and sexual confusion prevalent within both the text and indeed subtext. As mentioned in the discussion at the end of the rehearsal the challenge is to get the tone and the 'overtness' of this right. There is a very thin line to be trod especially when appealing to a family and schools audience base, however I do want to extrapolate a little on the juxtaposition between the clear gender differentiaition evident in the Edwardian context with the ambiguity Shakespeare provokes in terms of the lovers. It should be noted that the Edwardians were a society in which gender differentiation was at its greatest, women were considered delicate, sensitive and decorative creatures reliant on men in their jackets and waistcoats to protect them. It is the personification of the Princess in distress archetype, and it this repressive society that enables the freedom that Viola- and to a degree Olivia- discover so brazenly when their gowns and veils are ripped from them. The 'up in the air' twelth night feeling that will help dictate the tone of the production must be seen as being directly caused by the context in which our characters are placed. To use an analogy it is perhaps akin to an 'own clothes' day at school where you feel somehow freed- and able to do things you would not do when in uniform.

Yet couple this with an emotion as over powering as Love and the stage is braced for a series of moments which defy logic and reason and further more defy expectations. Too many Twelfth Nights give audiences exactly what they are expecting- Twelfth Night has become to a degree a tradition in its own right- like Christmas which I suppose is both to be expected and yet at at the same time rather ironic seeing as Twelfth Night itself is the undoing of tradition.
I suppose my aim for this production above all is to undo this tradition and engage our audience in the action and the lives of our characters, to lift them and to move them, to make them laugh and above all to excite them. For when they watch this production, they are themselves taking part in Twelfth Night, they are as much a part of the action as the actors, to this extent they are implicated in the fate of Malvolio and the reflecxivity of disguise goes full circle. As Feste brings us back to earth with a hey ho the wind and the rain, I hope people will walk out embued with that loathsome feeling of returning to the real world after a vacaction- for in the two and a half hours they are with us- they will be party and witness to a most memorable twelfth night - at least that is to what we must aspire!

after all the rain- it raineth every day

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Initial thoughts on Olivia

"I do seem to detect in Edwardian Society... a certain strain of melancholy, common enough among over-exerted lovers of pleasure. Oh yes, it's a wonderful party - but the band sounds tired, the women and champagne are losing their sparkle, the latest cigar smokes badly, boredom and satiety are creeping in, and the night is waiting outside to put its dark old questions." ("The Edwardians" - J.B. Priestley)

Olivia has been caught up in this "wonderful party" from the moment she was born. Treated as a rare jewel by her devoted father, as a young girl she was the centre of attention at his grand weekend parties, cooed over and admired by a succession of notables. Aged 18, she came out as a debutante and was presented to the King in London, who (gossip says) was much taken with her. She was taken round Europe on the Grand Tour, to expand her mind, and she attended the season in London - going to receptions, dinners, dances and the theatre, and breaking the hearts of a number of eligible bachelors whose advances she rejected. She would only rarely return to Illyria, which increasingly appeared to her as a sleepy backwater in comparison with her gay life in London.

The deaths of her father and brother bring her back to Illyria. Distraught, bereft, she suddenly finds herself as mistress of the house, and it is the weight of that responsibility - as well as her genuine grief - that makes her take her vow to "abjure the sight and company of men". Grief in Edwardian times was marked with very strict rituals - one mourned for a parent for 12 months, plain black being worn all the time; for a brother, the mourning period was 6 months, with "half mourning" (dull greys or mauves) being worn in the last month. But it was also common for people to take their mourning to extremes - the prime example being the late Queen Victoria, who wore black for her beloved Albert for the rest of her life. This was seen as the romantic thing to do - and Olivia, being the sort of girl who reads too many romantic novels, is motivated by this sense of the grand gesture in the face of tragedy, and vows to mourn for seven years. She wants to honour her dead father and brother by excessive and ostentatious mourning.

But is that the only reason for Olivia abjuring "the sight and company of men"? Could it be also a symptom of an underlying discontent with her position as a woman within a male-dominated society?

"Eventually wearied and discontented in luxury, the Edwardian society hostess was tired of expending so much energy on useless activities and rituals of dress and etiquette. She longed for freedom from the repression of a male orientated society where life was geared to satiate male needs." (fashion-era.com)

If this is so, perhaps this sheds some light on why Olivia is so instantly attracted to Cesario - for he represents a new kind of "man", one who is not the military, huntin' fishin' shootin' chap of her previous experience. Perhaps it is Cesario's very femininity with which Olivia falls in love?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

REFLECTIONS ON SIR ANDREW AGUECHEEK

I find everyone including feste uses and takes advantage of Andrew to their own end. Seeing him as a free meal ticket. Now i believe sir Andrew knows that,and this is not something new to him, all his life, his friends have always beenthe people he has bought things for. Something dosent feel right with sir andrewabout it, but thats all he's ever known. Its a sad case, Andrew never knowing real true friendship, or unconditional love, all he's ever known is that money can buy you anything, even friendship and love. But its the quality of friendship that suffers.

ANGELO