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|Covetn Garden-Scene of the First Performance of" The Rivals&
Written by JulieW
(2/26/2007 3:34 p.m.)
We are nowadays so used to large theatres which can seat thousands in their auditoriums, that I think it is worthwhile pointing out that even the two largest patent theatres in London at this point in the 18th century-Covent Garden and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane were modest, intimate spaces.
Covent Garden is the theatre we will concetrate upon in this post,as it was the theatre where The Rivals had its first performance.
These theatres were , it is well to remember ,bright, well-lit places, as the technology to dim the house lights was not yet available. No sitting in the dark for the late 18th century audience. The audience was as much on show as the performers.
This also gave the performers the opportunity to interact with the audience. On reading the play you might be bel to imagine points when the actors make asides to the audience. This was a standard conceit” of 18th century theatre. The audience could have eye contact and sometimes verbal contact with the actors. They were complicit .
Here is a scale plan of Covent Garden Theatre as it was when The Rivals was first performed in 1775:
and this is a close up of the central part of the plan:
Here is a rather wonderful caricature by Rowlandson of an actor reciting a prologue: you can see how just close the audience were to the performers. Some boxes were even on the stage itself, which surely must have invited ad-libs:
This is another caricature by Rowlandson of Covent Garden at the time The Rivals was performed: you can compare it to the scale pan above ;-)
Here is a link to the Georgian Theatre Royal ,Richmond, Yorkshire, which is a wonderful, miraculous survivor from our era, and which will give you some more ideas as to the intimate nature of these theatres.
|Georgian Theatre Royal,Richmond, Yorkshire|
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