Friday, April 27, 2012

Ye Art of Acting, by Lady A~, Authoress of 'The Bath Novels of Lady A~'.

So much of what we write about on this blog is devoted to things past, pulled back into the present, in order that we can shine a spotlight on those in distant humanity who have entranced us in history. In my little ramble today, I thought I might introduce you to one of my very novel friends, and his lively troupe, who presently delivers history (and the historical)--but in the flesh. This charming creature is one of those rare beings who cannot only paint the past for us, but can perfectly perform it. What sets this singular person and his talented players apart is their intricate knowledge and interpretation of rare Georgian theater; plays and pieces that were last performed in their, then, contemporary period of the 1700's.

Mr. Macaroni and his fine troupe of traveling players
'Mr. Macaroni' is every bit of the Georgian noodle; in fact so suave is he, he might 'as well be speaking Italian'! Doubling daringly as both thespian and impresario of The Great Mogul's Company of Comedians aka 'Humphrey Clinker and the Travelling Libertines', Mr. M. and his troupe bring to life, amongst others, the pricelessly pertinent works of Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne. By employing a method of comedic delivery that has not been seen since the golden age of Garrick, Macaroni and friends will transport one straight back to the carousing, drinking, singing, swearing and fighting of glorious Georgian theatrics. If you may be guessing at the relevance for such theater in a tawdry, modern world, besides the obvious exquisite art of these performances, only but reflect upon some of the themes of their work: war in deserts, 'corrupt politicians, celebrities courting fame'. The great mogul and his company will bring new meaning to 'what goes around comes around', and with a period panache rarely seen in the neo-realistic arenas that offer us far less colorful stereotypes.

Be-wigged Wags!
Here's what makes this group an historic must-see both in this ramble, and if you are really privileged, in high performance upon the oaken boards in the business that Macaroni calls the STAGE. When this iconic group of strolling players first came together they literally moved about like a traveling troupe Jane Austen might have witnessed at the Chawton Fair. All the scenery, props, period costuming, including wigs and period instruments, were ferried with the cast/crew to the unusual places in which they earlier performed, e.g. in newly reunified Germany in the 1990's.

Ensembles of High Performance
Taking a rare present-day peek into what such an undertaking might comprise in terms of period detail and authenticity, here are some Great Mogul 'Vignette-views'. The cast dons proper theatrical 'slap' (makeup) from the days of yore, complete with handmade wigs, fashioned by a remarkable fellow-player, and appositely named, wig-maker Keith Wigham. Seemingly born to the role, Mr. Wigham crafts these 'do's of art' with 'hair, gauze, glue and chicken wire' and as painstakingly (some wry wag remarked) as "watching paint dry". Additionally, the very accomplished choreographer, one 'Mistress Shaw', is an expert designer in the art of costuming. She procures the 'magnificent frock coats, shirts, breeches, skirts, stomachers, and aprons' that might once have flashed across the creaky boards of a pucker Georgian stage. And if this isn't fascinatingly authentic enough to hasten you to catch your glimpse-treat of the Mogul and his Company, this treasure of a troupe comes equipped with two very accomplished musicians, who are 'schooled in the art of the classical and the baroque, and are expert in playing and composing in that style'. Recently the Company toured with an actual 'full-size harpsichord', which, undoubtedly, added a sublime measure of 'musical beauty and veracity' to their performances.

'Slap', Wiggery & ye Baroque!
The troupe is very unique too, in that its members all share a well-founded interest in 18th-century culture, in fact, they make a 'kind of art of it'. They concentrate upon the Satires with distinct Hogarthian flavor, embodied in such performances as Fielding's Historical Register for the Year 1736 and Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Certainly not any 'olde' thing you can catch at the Multiplex or a Playhouse near you, and truly nothing you could stream to your instant queue on TV. If I had to draw an evocative historical-witness analogy, such fare is as rare as having the Romanovs to dinner. Not only are the performances a singular sight to be seen, in every exquisite brushstroke of authenticity, but the venues in which they are staged, quite literally 'set the stage'.

Wags, Wenches, Wine & Song
Two of these that deserve especial mention are Fairfax House in York, and Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, the latter designed by the aptly diverse playwright and architect, John Vanbrugh. In Fairfax House the Company performed a memorable piece in the 'splendid and sumptuous withdrawing room', and in Seaton Delaval Hall's be-cobwebbed Coach House, they rendered a technically subdued exhibition of their art, in order to accommodate an upstaging colony of bats, sensitive to 'ranting and wailing'! Definitely not anything comparable to the Multiplex! Macaroni also shared a spectral anecdote with me about the Hall being haunted by a disaffected servant-girl circa mid-18th c. Apparently the 'White Lady', as she is fondly known, fell in love with one of Captain Francis Blake Delaval's sons, who was packed off to war and never to return. Naturally the poor thing succumbed to her mortal love-wound, died, and is now said to sit at window gazing out to sea, in the hope she might yet spy her long-lost warrior-love. A sure bonus to the Georgian theatrics of a knave-noodle and his wags, who have, as surely, distracted the pining specter on every performing occasion with the likes of (Georgian) '(Gruesome) Ailments and Remedies' and 'The Age of Beauty, not Hygiene'. No doubt Mrs. Slurp's mighty 'mouse-brows' must have been frightful enough to alarm even this enduring ghost!

Living 'Georgian Lives'
And not unlike the breathtaking, English historic houses in which some of the troupe's period work is put on polished display, The Great Mogul's Company of Comedians deserves that special preservation assigned to treasures of heritage. In such a way, then, the Company has forged past cooperative links with the British Council, formed a present partnership with Northumbria University's English Department, and is generating new scripts (for example, its 'Vignettes') for organizations such as the National Trust. Most importantly, however, if you are lucky enough to be one of England's fine denizens, living in vicinity of this spectacular group of strolling players, it is your welcome support that will help guarantee that Mr. Sterne's sentimental journey will never end. Well, at least in every sumptuous withdrawing room or be-cobwebbed Coach House to be had--with upstaging bats--in the kingdom!

If I've peaked your interest in Mr. Macaroni's 'living history', then do amble to my extended tete-a-tete with him on Ye bath Corner Blogge to discover the Knave under the Wig! Ladies, the divine & charming Mr. M. can also be noodled with upon his thespian blog or at his lively post in the 'Twittershire', where he oft toozles with our bluestocking dowager, Mrs. Skyelark. Also find Mr. M's artful company details upon our freshly debuting A-Lyste!

Discover what drama the notorious Noodle and his Libertines shall be creating next!

All Great Mogul's Images courtesy H.C. Productions

Lady A~ is the authoress of The Bath Novels of Lady A~, a companion set of seven original Regaustenian novels to Jane Austen's perfect six. Discover this collection's first 'Bath Beauty', Merits and Mercenaries.

Purchase & Possess Merits and Mercenaries


  1. How absolutely fabulous! I wish I could attend Mr. Macaroni's living history and see Humphrey Clinker and the Travelling Libertines perform! What a wonderful way to immerse oneself in the Georgian era. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Dearest Lucinda, Mr. M. is such an exquisite performing libertine that I am sure he is extraordinarily delighted that I shared his mixture of parts with the Ladies!

  2. I'm still hung up on the 'mouse' brows. This history of playacting was vastly entertaining for me. Thanks you!


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