In February and early March 2017, I worked with another group of York undergraduate students to look more closely at two protean farces, short dramas designed to give individual performers an opportunity to showcase their versatility by portraying a range of characters of varying ages, genders, nationalities, and dispositions.
What follows are three scenes from the 1819 protean farce, The Actress of All Work. This play, which originally starred the actress Mrs. Edwin, was inspired by Charles Mathews’s 1817 success, The Actor of All Work, and quickly became a favourite of actresses looking for a showcase piece. Child actress Clara Fisher was especially celebrated for her portrayal of all six of the characters in The Actress of All Work and it remained in her repertoire even after she had graduated to adult roles.
The first excerpt is a scene between the actress Maria, in the character of the “country gawkey” Bridget and the Manager of a provincial theatre. Jenna MacNeil reads the role of Maria/Bridget and Ryan Boulet reads the Manager.
The second excerpt features Maria again, this time in the role of the “first rate London actress” Flourish, who also happens to be Bridget’s cousin. Listen to how the Manager (Alex Colle) tries desperately to please the celebrated actress (Jenna MacNeil).
In the final excerpt Maria (read by Colette Radou) tries her hand at cross-gender casting, taking on the role of the “literary fop” Lounge, a fast-speaking gentleman who also happens to be in league with Bridget while engaged to her cousin Flourish. The Manager (Alex Colle) squirms to find a way to accommodate this gentleman’s demands without losing favour with Flourish.
Special thanks to all undergraduate participants: Ryan Boulet, Alex Colle, Jenna MacNeill, Rhys Nair, Colette Radou, Rebecca Tran.