Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
The foremost Theatre in London for the purposes of the game. The company that plays here is called "The Kings men" and is famous among other things for having brought forth Nell Gwynn. They wear royal blue cloaks as a mark of distinction.
The interior of the theatre is quite revolutionary.
The stage apron still extends into the pit but the stage now features one of the new-fangled proscenium arches. This arch acts as a frame for the play and features a curtain behind it, which can be closed to mask the stage and drawn open to reveal it.
Backcloths denoting scenery are now flown in on pulleys from above and numerous scenes can be used in a single play. Flat painted canvas scenery on wheels, known as trucks, are also used for even greater variety.
The stage is lit by an enormous chandelier, bigger than a cartwheel and by a bank of candles backed by reflectors set at the level of the actors’ feet. A cunning arrangement of glass and mirrors create light wells from the new roof, taking daylight from the outside and focusing it on the stage. The light wells have been known to leak during heavy rain…
For the quality, three tiers of boxes, which extend around 3 sides of the theatre provide seating.
The first tier of boxes are at the level of the stage and it is here, directly opposite the stage that the King has his box. To the King’s left is the box of the Duke of York and to his right the box of the Duke of Cumberland. These Royal boxes have seating of the highest quality: The chairs are luxuriously padded and upholstered in fine red velvet. The woodwork is carved and gilded. The King’s chair is taller than the others.
The ordinary boxes have comfortable seats, lightly padded and upholstered in green baize fabric.
The pit has seating for the common folk of London, wooden benches only. The pit is also frequented by men and women of the higher classes, seeking amorous adventures. The women have the grace to go masked although one wit has quipped “A woman masked is like a covered dish sent to table - only whets the appetite for what’s underneath”!
Young girls selling oranges move through the crowds. The theatre has its own distinctive fragrance compounded of the smell of the crowd, the scent of hundreds of beeswax candles and the thick theatrical makeup worn by the players all punctuated with the sharp-sweet scent of citrus.
The backstage area consists of the immediate backstage, storage rooms for the costumes and properties and an office for Mssrs Killigrew, the theatre managers.
- Performances were held in the afternoon, not the evening. The doors would open at midday when the rush for seats would begin. The performance started at 3.30pm and lasted for about 3 hours.
- People often paid for placeholders as there was no booking in advance – this was usually a poor man who would sit in the seat till it was needed, allowing the actual theatre-goer to spend the 3 hours prior to the commencement of the performance doing something much more enjoyable.
- The pit was filled with backless benches, there was barely any standing room.
- Women and men were permitted to be seated together, although women were advised to wear a vizard to protect their identity given the rowdy nature of the theatre.
- The theatre is far from a quiet affair. There were always late arrivals, some people would leave after just the first act, some would arrive to watch only the last. Brawls and ongoing criticism were to be expected, and added further entertainment to those in attendance.
- If the court is in mourning, the theatres close – this is done by word of mouth and fly posters placed in prominent places about the city.
- We all know about Nell Gwyn and her oranges, but, apart from eating the fruit, the skin could be hurled at the players if they failed to give a satisfactory performance.
- A box: 1 pound
- A seat with commoners: 5s
Plays Shown At The Theatre In-Game
- The Country Wife, Wycherley, 6th May
- The School For Wives, Molière, 23rd May