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Education Pack
Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Contents Page(s) Introduction 3 Bristol Old Vic’s production of Wild Oats The Plot 4-­‐7 A scene-­‐by-­‐scene breakdown of what happens in Wild Oats The Writer 8-­‐9 Background information about the writer of Wild Oats, John O’Keeffe The Director 10-­‐11 An interview with the director of Bristol Old Vic’s Wild Oats, Mark Rosenblatt The Designer 12 An interview with the designer of Bristol Old Vic’s Wild Oats, Ben Stone The Quakers 13-­‐16 Find out what it meant to be a Quaker in the 18th Century The Navy 17-­‐18 How much naval jargon do you recognise? The Strolling Player 19 Jack Rover and the dangerous world of the 18th Century provincial actor Articles and Reviews 20-­‐22 How were performances of the play received in the 1970s? Questions 23 Things to think about before and after you see Wild Oats www.bristololdvic.org.uk 2 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Introduction Welcome to this education pack for Wild Oats, the first production in the newly refurbished Old Vic. This pack is designed to give you some background context to the world of the play and to the production itself. As part of my job as assistant director, I have done a lot of research on the play and some of the material in this pack was used by the director and the actors in preparing for rehearsals. It includes a plot synopsis (which I would recommend you don’t read until you’ve seen the play!) and a biography of the playwright, John O’Keeffe. There is an interview with the director of Wild Oats, Mark Rosenblatt, and the designer, Ben Stones. You will also find some historical background on Quakers, the life of the ‘strolling player’ in the 18th Century and a glossary of naval jargon. Finally, there are some reviews from when the play was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1970s. I hope you enjoy our production of Wild Oats and find that this education pack deepens your understanding of the play. Alice Lacey, Assistant Director The Play Jack Rover is an actor. Committed, quick-­‐witted and capable of slipping into a new identity with the merest arc of an eyebrow. The trouble is, there's one character he hasn't quite mastered. His own. John O'Keeffe's careering caper of cross purposes, mistaken identity and confusion is a classic romp of a comedy, directed by the hugely exciting young director, Mark Rosenblatt (National Theatre), making his Bristol Old Vic debut. The charismatic, Shakespeare-­‐spouting Rover lurches between places and people, falling in love, pulling pranks and tumbling over relations he never knew he had. Wild Oats is a riotously comic affair, a high-­‐speed barrel through the lives of a dysfunctional band of friends, foes and family which serves, most triumphantly, as a heartfelt love letter to theatre itself. The Cast Sam Alexander -­‐ Jack Rover Cornelius Booth -­‐ Lamp/Banks Philip Bird -­‐ Ephraim Smooth Jo Herbert -­‐ Lady Amaranth Debra Penny -­‐ Amelia Hugh Skinner -­‐ Harry Emily May Smith -­‐ Jane Isaac Stanmore -­‐ Sim Sion Tudor Owen -­‐ Gammon Kim Wall -­‐ George Thunder Stewart Wright -­‐ John Dory www.bristololdvic.org.uk 3 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 The Plot Act One Scene One John Dory, a ship’s boatswain, and Sir George Thunder, an ex-­‐sea captain, are roaming the countryside in pursuit of ruffians who have deserted the navy. Hungry and thirsty, they break into a mansion at night in search of some hospitality. John Dory remarks that Sir George has had bad luck ever since he tricked Miss Amelia into a sham marriage and then abandoned her. In an aside, John reveals that the sham clergyman he arranged was in fact Miss Amelia’s brother and in orders at the time; Sir George and Miss Amelia were married and remain so. The owner of the mansion, Lady Amaranth, enters and recognises Sir George as her uncle. He is surprised to find her mistress of the household and a Quaker. Lady Amaranth reveals that her guardian, Sir George’s cousin Dovehouse, bequeathed her his estate. Ephraim Smooth, Quaker and executor of the will, reminds Lady Amaranth that this was on the condition that she remains a faithful Quaker. Sir George is furious that, in the Quaker tradition, no one calls Lady Amaranth or himself by their titles and beats a servant to show his displeasure. Lady Amaranth asks after Sir George’s son, Harry, who is at Naval College; in an aside, Sir George devises a plan to have Harry marry Lady Amaranth in order to save her title. John Dory rushes in with news that Harry has quit Naval College and run off; Sir George is furious and arranges to go find him. Ephraim Smooth makes his dislike of Sir George known to Lady Amaranth; they are too noisy for him. Lady Amaranth orders Ephraim to distribute meat and drink amongst the poor and hire the young damsel he has spoken of. Scene Two Harry, son of Sir George, and Muz, his servant, wait for their friend Rover outside a B&B. They have been in disguise as actors and have been travelling with a group of players for the past three months. Harry is now regretting causing his father grief and is preparing to leave the company. Rover, an actor and Harry’s new best friend, appears, cursing a chambermaid for distracting him. Harry tells Rover that he will not be performing with him in the next show. They part ways, both distraught. Scene Three Ephraim Smooth pays a visit to Farmer Gammon and tells him that Lady Amaranth has agreed to take his daughter, Jane, on as her handmaiden. Ephraim reveals in an aside that he fancies Jane. Gammon is relieved to be getting his children off his hands but when they agree with him that it will be good for them to be independent, he rails at them for abandoning him. Jane laments that Miss Amelia has refused to marry their father and Gammon says that if her brother, Banks, refuses to let him marry her again he will turn them out of their cottage. Banks appears and tells Gammon if Amelia says she won’t marry him he should take her at her word. Sim, Gammon’s son, tell his father that a ringleader of show folks called Lamp wants to hire their barn to perform in. Gammon is keen and says they should hurry in case Lamp engages the local inn. He is about to pass through Banks’ garden but Banks stops him. Gammon orders Sim to kick through it but he refuses. It rains suddenly and Rover seeks shelter in Gammon’s house. He is refused but Banks shows him inside his house. Jane announces that Lady Amaranth is approaching and rushes inside to tidy their house. Twitch, a www.bristololdvic.org.uk 4 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 local law enforcer, arrives with a warrant to arrest Banks on Gammon’s instruction. Gammon discusses the virtues of charity with Lady Amaranth whilst overseeing Banks’ arrest. Rover interrupts the arrest and pays twenty pounds of Banks’ debt. He asks Gammon to put his name to the debt to pay off the rest but he refuses. Lady Amaranth appears from Gammon’s house and Rover explains, inarticulately, what has happened. Lady Amaranth is touched by Rover’s generosity and tries to pay him back but he runs off. Lady Amaranth says she will have Jane find out who this man is and where he is going. Act Two Scene One Rover arrives at a coach station, planning on making his way to London and trying his luck on the London stages. Jane and Sim are following close behind on orders from Lady Amaranth to seek out Rover. Gammon arrives to seal the barn hire with Lamp and recognises Rover as the vagrant who nearly unveiled his miserly ways to Lady Amaranth. Sim recognises Rover as an actor who played Poor Tom in a show he saw recently. Rover books himself onto the coach under the name ‘the bold Thunder’; he is quoting from a play. John Dory arrives to book himself and Sir George onto the coach but spots the name Thunder on the book and thinks he has found Harry. Scene Two Meanwhile, Rover has encountered Lamp and his assistant Trap who both recognise him and immediately try to book him for their show. He tells them he is going to London before realising that he gave all his money away and that he must sign with them. John Dory enters and after much confusion, he puts himself and Rover into a coach headed for Lady Amaranth’s mansion, still believing that he has Harry in his grasp. Act Three Scene One Lady Amaranth muses on Rover’s qualities and his situation; she thinks she might love him. A confused Jane returns and tells Lady Amaranth that she thinks Rover is headed for London. John Dory arrives and announces that he has found young Harry. Rover appears, dressed in finery, and Lady Amaranth and he recognise each other. Rover keeps up his disguise as Harry and Lady Amaranth tries to take in the fact that the unknown man she loves is her cousin Harry. Gammon and Lamp arrive to ask for permission to perform their play in Gammon’s barn. They are shocked to discover that Rover is a gentleman and that Lady Amaranth defers to his opinion. Rover threatens not to perform in the play but is persuaded and Lady Amaranth offers her gallery for the stage and says she will invite all the neighbours. Scene Two Back at the inn, Harry orders Muz to find out what humour his father is in before he ventures into his sight. He goes to dress as Sir George enters and asks the landlord if he has heard of any deserters. John Dory returns from Lady Amaranth’s and reveals that he found Harry and that just left him flirting with Lady Amaranth. Sir George is very pleased and greatly surprised when Harry walks into www.bristololdvic.org.uk 5 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 the room. After much confusion, Sir George decides that Harry must not be keen on Lady Amaranth and says that he will take Harry back to Lady Amaranth to resolve the situation. Act Four Scene One Lady Amaranth is reading Shakespeare, a writer Jack Rover has introduced her to. As You Like It is to be performed with Rover in the part of Orlando to Lady Amaranth’s Rosalind. Ephraim Smooth conveys his unhappiness at these shenanigans to Lady Amaranth who has very little patience with him. He is especially unhappy that all the servants have been given parts. Rover reveals that he has fallen for Lady Amaranth and wonders what will happen when he is discovered as an imposter. Harry appears and works out that Rover has been mistaken for him. He pretends to be seeking his fortune and trying to dupe Lady Amaranth into a false marriage along with an older actor called Abrawang who is pretending to be Sir George. Rover is shocked but Harry reveals in an aside that he is determined to see Jack make his fortune by helping him marry the woman his father means for him. Harry warns Lady Amaranth that Sir George, furious at the goings on between his son and Lady Amaranth, is determined to label him an imposter and that he has bought Harry on to pretend to be his son. Lady Amaranth tries to get Sir George to recognise his son but he refuses acknowledging Harry instead. Lady Amaranth reprimands her uncle and in a fury he beats everyone out of the room. Rover vows to fight him. Scene Two Lady Amaranth visits Banks and his sister Amelia and is upset that they have been turned out of their cottage without her knowledge. She wants to help them. She asks Amelia to tell her about her past. Amelia reveals that she was once married and had a son. She married a young Captain Seymour who thought he was duping her into a sham marriage but unbeknownst to him his fellow sailor exposed him. Banks, her brother, encouraged her into the wedding and performed it himself making it a legitimate marriage. The sea captain deserted her after the wedding and she followed him out to India. She left her son with a friend whilst she looked for his father but when she returned a war was raging and her friend had escaped with her child. She returned to England alone and joined her guilt-­‐
ridden brother in an isolated life. Lady Amaranth vows to have Amelia and her brother come live with her. Act Five Scene One The three ruffians have returned penniless from London and plot to catch a vagrant in the hope of gaining the reward Ephraim Smooth has promised. John Dory comes upon the sailors and they tell him a sob story about being press ganged into service. He promises to bring them succour. Sir George witnesses this and vows to support and advise them. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 6 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Scene Two Rover is searching for Sir George as he wants to duel with him. They meet in the woods but are interrupted by the three ruffians who attempt to kill Sir George. Rover sees them off and follows them as John Dory picks up Sir George and drags him away from the fray. Scene Three Gammon is overseeing Sim as he makes an inventory of all of Banks’ possessions. Sim gives Banks some money so he can buy back his goods. Amelia is waiting to hear from Lady Amaranth and supposes that her cousin’s disappearance has stopped her from getting in touch. Rover runs in having escaped his attackers and a concerned Amelia gets him a drink. A bailiff arrives to take possession of the contents of the house but Rover sees him off and makes a hasty exit. Banks returns and reports that three ruffians and a gaggle of local men have taken Rover hostage as they swear he robbed them and have taken him up to Lady Amaranth’s mansion. Amelia and Banks set off to the mansion to defend his name. Scene Four Jane is clearing a room for Amelia’s eminent arrival when Ephraim Smooth creeps up on her and reveals his feelings of lust for her. Jane hears Lady Amaranth arriving and tricks Ephraim into proclaiming his lust for her in Lady Amaranth’s presence, who promptly dismisses him as a hypocrite. Lady Amaranth is worried about Harry (Rover’s) disappearance. Amelia enters closely followed by John Dory and Sir George who immediately recognises the woman he duped at the altar. Amelia faints and when she recovers John Dory reveals to Sir George that his marriage to Amelia was in fact legitimate. Amelia discovers that the young Captain Seymour she thought she had married is in fact Sir George Thunder. He assures Amelia and Banks that she will live with him as his wife. Sir George asks after his son and when he learns that his son is lost he says he will convey his estate upon Rover, the stranger who saved his life. The local landlord arrives and announces that there is a footpad in custody. Sir George and Ephraim jostle to magistrate over the trial. The ruffians are discovered and Rover is set free. Rover calls on Abrawang to drop his disguise. Harry finally reveals the misunderstanding and Rover is shocked to learn that Sir George is in fact really Sir George, Lady Amaranth’s uncle. He is pressed upon to reveal his origins and tells everyone that he grew up in India under the care of a guardian, having been separated from his mother who went by the name of Seymour. He grew up under the care of an army officer who loved acting and he learnt his craft from a young age. When he came of age he was offered a position in the army but chose instead to come to England to find his parents. Sir George and Amelia recognise Rover as their son and Sir George implores him to marry his niece Lady Amaranth. Lady Amaranth agrees but says that Sir George must convey his estate upon his other son Harry which he agrees to. Rover, elated, announces that it is time for the play to be performed. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 7 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 The Writer John O’Keeffe was born in 1747 to Roman Catholic parents. He trained as an artist, but at the age of twenty-­‐seven his sight began to deteriorate (he traced the source of the problem to falling into the River Liffey and catching a chill in his youth). After a two year trip to London, where he became an admirer of playwright and director David Garrick, he turned instead to acting and writing plays for the Dublin and London stages. As he said, ‘a man can compose with his pen in the hand of an amanuensis [typist]; but the pencil he must hold in his own hand’. O'Keeffe wrote his first play The She Gallant when he was twenty, and it was performed in Dublin at the Smock Alley Theatre. In 1777 O'Keefe moved to London. The following year he wrote Tony Lumpkin in Town, a sequel to Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer and sent it to the manager of the Haymarket Theatre. The play was successfully produced, and O'Keeffe regularly wrote for the Haymarket thereafter. O’Keeffe’s output was mostly comedy, pantomime and farce. He wrote at least twenty plays, many of them ‘afterpieces’, the short, often musical, light relief which came after the main event of the theatrical evening, which was the full-­‐length play. On a number of occasions O’Keeffe was paid several hundred guineas by a producer for the play, out of which he himself then paid a composer to add the music. Not much has survived of his repertoire, but in 1976 the Royal Shakespeare Company revived Wild Oats. It received rave reviews including one from critic Bernard Levin which refers to the playwright as ‘an altogether forgotten Irish-­‐born eighteenth-­‐century man of the theatre’ and asks ‘what other treasures are there in O’Keeffe’s work, and how many of his contemporaries might also now be looked over with advantage?’ Incredibly, by the time O’Keeffe wrote Wild Oats in 1791 he had been completely blind for ten years. He was completely dependent on an ‘amanuensis’ (typist), his servant John, and dictated the entire play. Other works included another sequel to She Stoops to Conquer and a pantomime, which used children for Lilliputians, called Harlequin Gulliver. Another play Omai, a pantomime of 1785, takes the real Tahitian, brought back to England by Captain Cook and puts him into a surreal plot whereby he is engaged to marry Londina, the daughter of Britannia. The lovers have to first thwart the foul plots of their enemies, and this involves travel to Kamchatka, the Antarctic, New Zealand, Tonga and Hawaii. Chapter ten of O’Keeffe’s memoirs begins: ‘October 1st, 1774, I was married to Mary Heaphy, the elder daughter of Tottenham Heaphy, Esq.’ of Limerick, the owner of two theatres. His children, John Tottenham O’Keeffe, Adelaide and Gerald (who died young) are mentioned frequently and with devotion, but Mrs O’Keeffe, an actress and a Protestant, apparently left him for another actor in 1781 – the same year he lost his sight. He is alleged to have ‘demolished his wife’s nose in a fit of jealousy’, and went back to England. He never returned to Ireland, and, according to his daughter, never mentioned his wife’s name again. His memoirs simply state, ‘Affairs entirely private, and strictly domestic’ compelled him to send the children to France for their education – apparently an effort to prevent his wife having contact with them. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 8 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 O’Keeffe certainly lived an eventful, unusual and sometimes difficult life. His memoirs are full of reminiscences of actors like Garrick and Macklin and the managers Colman and Harris; anecdotes about what happens when a lady with an enormous head-­‐dress brushes against a chandelier; how to prevent a duel (talk relentlessly to both protagonists until they forgot what they came for); the economics and politics of the theatre; showing a band of Cherokee Indians the trap door in the stage; the patronage of the great; how to buy a cauliflower in Ireland. He wrote two volumes of memoirs which he dictated to his daughter Adelaide in 1826, six years before his death in his eighty-­‐
eighth year. The work is dedicated to ‘His Most Gracious Majesty King George The Fourth’, who gave O’Keeffe a pension. In the 19th Century the essayist William Hazlitt described O'Keeffe as the ‘English Molière’ observing ‘the scale of the modern writer [O’Keeffe] is smaller, but the spirit is the same. In light, careless laughter and pleasant exaggeration of the humorous, we have no equal to him. There is no labour or contrivance in his scenes, but the drollery of his subject seems to strike irresistibly upon his fancy, and run away with his discretion as it does with ours’. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 9 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 The Director An interview with Mark Rosenblatt Wild Oats is the first show to be staged in the newly refurbished Bristol Old Vic, meaning that you will be the first director working in the Theatre. What are the challenges of working in a newly built space? Well, we haven’t got in there yet, so who knows? And I suppose that’s the point. It’s all a bit of a guess on everyone’s part. It’s certainly exciting -­‐ and a bit scary -­‐ to be the crash-­‐test dummies! That said, we do know that Tom has restored the thrust of the stage to its original position, much further out, which means that doing a play full of asides and contact with the audience is going to be a lot more fun and intimate. What were your initial instincts about directing this play? That we had to take the pain and guilt George Thunder feels about what he did to Amelia seriously. If we could root the comedy in something darker, then it would come to life more satisfyingly and fuel the story of the play. For some reason I also knew quite early that I didn’t want to set it in period. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with doing so, but all that period costuming felt like a block on my imagination. As the play’s characters felt timeless, and could exist rather vibrantly in a loose, drab, provincial mid-­‐20th Century setting, and as that is also the world of The Dresser, I was instinctively drawn to that. After your initial instinct, how did you then prepare for rehearsal? I read the play a lot and unpicked the complex character histories within it. We also did an exploratory workshop at the National Theatre Studio where we explored some staging ideas and looked at ways of theatricalising the back story. We looked into the history of the Quakers and found useful ways of bringing their customs and practices into the world of Lady Amaranth’s household. I spoke to a couple of social historians about the specific social context of the play. I also went to speak to playwright and screenwriter Ronald Harwood, who has written various histories of theatre. He gave me a few absolute gems. You mention some influences above but what did you draw inspiration from as part of the process of directing Wild Oats? Ronald Harwood’s play The Dresser, which is about the bleak world of 1950s touring theatre. The life of the great actor-­‐manager Donald Wolfit, on whom The Dresser is based. The architecture of Bristol Old Vic. The possibilities of a rough theatre aesthetic. Wild Oats was rediscovered by the RSC in 1976 and revived by the National Theatre in 1995. Did past productions also inform your take on the play? There’s not much available on the 1977 production, which was apparently rather brilliant. I did have a peek at photos of the NT production, but only after I had got my head around our take on it. That production was also apparently completely hilarious. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 10 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Does the text of Wild Oats pose any particular challenges? Yes. It’s very rich and fruity. Character is etched out of language. The sailors talk in naval jargon, the Quakers in old world ‘Thees’ and ‘Thous’ and the actors are always quoting plays. Enjoying that, but also getting underneath it, is a bit of a challenge. What is your favourite part of the rehearsal process? When you find out that your ideas work in practice. And just getting down to the nitty gritty of a scene and working with actors on text. Actors have a brilliant capacity to discover more in the scene than you can ever have foreseen and I love it when that happens. Why did you want to become a director? I always went to the theatre as a kid and acted in loads of school plays. I directed my first play at school, Doctor Faustus -­‐ nice easy one to be kicking off with! – and discovered I loved it and was quite good at it. It does still terrify me which is, unfortunately, part of the attraction. If something’s scary, it’s often because you’re very drawn to it. Who are your influences as a director? PT Anderson, the film director. I wouldn’t pretend that the style of his work can be seen in mine -­‐ he’s a genius, I’m not! -­‐ but I just love the sheer visual bravura of his work. It’s the emotional scope and what he gets actors to buy into. Theatre companies like Kneehigh and Complicite are great spurs to what is possible on a stage. And Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, but I don’t want to bog this pack down with my long and boring theories about the shared values of football and theatre! What advice would you give young people who want to get into directing? If you can imagine doing something else, probably do that. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 11 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 The Designer An Interview with Ben Stones What was your inspiration for the design for Wild Oats? The spirit of the text! Being playful and fun with the theatrical language. How do you choose the colours you incorporate into your design? I choose the colours once I start putting the world of the show together. Lots of research goes into this. You generally know when it is right. Wild Oats is the first show to be staged in the newly refurbished Bristol Old Vic. What are the challenges of working in a newly built space? It being built in time! It’s a trickier period mounting a production in a new theatre, as every show has its challenges, this one has more! Can you talk us through the process of taking the set from model box to a finalised set? Once in rehearsals you work closely with the production manager to realise the design, thanks to the work of many carpenters, builders, scenic artists the set takes shape. What in your opinion makes a good set? One that responds to the text. How did you get into set design? I originally wanted to be an actor but didn’t enjoy it. I had seen the work of Maria Bjornson on TV when I was 12 and was really interested in set design. What advice would you give to someone starting out and wanting to become a designer? See lots of theatre. Get lots of experience backstage. I started by studying stage management so I had a technical background before I went to art school in London. Also visit lots of galleries and look at art! What do you enjoy most about the design process? The discussions with the director when anything is possible. If you could design any show, what would it be and why? Nightmare before Christmas… I just think it would work brilliantly as an actor musician show! www.bristololdvic.org.uk 12 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 The Quakers The characters of Lady Amaranth and Ephraim Smooth are Quakers and this fact affects some (but not all) of their behaviour. An understanding of the Quaker religion and practises will enhance your understanding of their actions. Dictionary Schism: The division of a group into opposing factions Epistle: A letter, especially one that is long, formal, or didactic Friend: One who supports, sympathises with, or patronises a group, cause, or movement Sect: A religious body, especially one that has separated from a larger denomination History Quakerism began as a loose movement of radical dissenters in the mid-­‐17th Century. They were undoubtedly a revolutionary and unsettling movement when they first started. They rejected scripture, the sacraments, hierarchy and the Church of England. Many Acts were passed to ensure that they were ostracised from society and making their worship illegal and punishable with fines and imprisonment. Early on in their development they were a nebulous and individualistic movement but several high profile schisms within the movement led to an effort to regain control of Quakerism through various measures; yearly epistles full of advice for Friends and the adoption of a loose hierarchy in the form of Elders, Clerks and Overseers. This attempt to gain control of the movement gained pace in the eighteenth century despite a concerted movement towards the laws against Quakers and other nonconformists being repealed and relaxed. Some historians argue that by the 18th Century, when Wild Oats was written, the Quakers had become almost sect-­‐like: ‘By mid eighteenth century, the term ‘sect’ could rightly be applied to the Society of Friends [Quakers]. The organisation showed many of the hallmarks: supervision of ministry, censorship, limitation of individual activity, strict marriage discipline, endogamy, limitation of individual activity, separate education of children, increasingly strict official line on dress and plain speech’ – Kathleen H. Thomas, The History and Significance of Quaker Symbols in Sect Formation Religious Beliefs & Worship Quakerism centres on a belief in the Inward Light, or the presence of God within individuals. As Quakers believe that God exists within people, they reject external signs of faith. This includes church buildings; Quakers instead worship in very simple Meeting Houses. Early Quakers rejected baptism, confirmation, ordination and holy anointing. Weddings and funerals were very low key, often taking place within a normal meeting with all partakers wearing everyday clothes. Early Quaker worship was based on periods of silent waiting that usually lasted several hours. In other www.bristololdvic.org.uk 13 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 meetings, members would give lengthy personal testimonies. The name ‘Quaker’ came from the physical manifestations that were reported, particularly just before delivering one of these personal testimonies at a meeting: trembling, sighing, groaning, howling and swooning. The Testimony of Simplicity The testimony of simplicity is a shorthand description of the actions generally taken by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) to testify or bear witness to their beliefs that a person ought to live a simple life in order to focus on what is most important and ignore or play down what is least important. Friends believe that a person’s spiritual life and character are more important than the quantity of goods he or she possesses or his or her monetary worth. Friends also believe that one should use one’s resources, including money and time, deliberately in ways that are most likely to make life truly better for oneself and others. Plain Speech Early Quakers used the familiar form of ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ instead of the polite ‘you’. They refused to use titles, instead calling everyone they met by their first names. Early Friends also objected to the names of the days and months in the English language, because many of them referred to Roman or Norse gods, such as Mars (March) and Thor (Thursday), and Roman emperors, such as Julius (July). As a result, the days of the week were known as ‘First Day’ for Sunday, ‘Second Day’ for Monday, and so forth. Similarly, the months of the year were ‘First Month’ for January, ‘Second Month’ for February, and so forth. Plain Dress Traditionally, wearing plain dress was an answer to a number of Friends' concerns. Expensive styles were used to show social inequality and make statements about wealth. Only a select few could afford expensive adornments, which could then be used to exacerbate differences between people based on class. This was part of the inspiration for the Quaker testimony to equality. In addition, the frequent buying of expensive new styles and discarding what had recently been bought, was considered wasteful and self-­‐seeking, where Friends instead aimed to focus on simplicity, and the important things in life. Notably, Friends did not consider it right to judge people on their material possessions, but this could not be achieved in a society which placed an emphasis on keeping up to date with inconsequential but expensive new trends. At the time, this practice of plainness meant Friends were obviously identifiable. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 14 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Quaker References Act One Scene One Act One Scene One Act One Scene One Act One Scene One Act Two Scene Two Act Two Scene Two Act Three Scene One Reference Ephraim: Thou dost speak in parables, which I understand not. Explanation Quakers rejected doctrine and scriptures in favour of an inner and highly personal knowledge of God known as ‘The Truth’ or ‘The Light’. Lady Amaranth: Title is vanity. Quakers rejected all notion of hierarchy and ran their religion in a network rather than a pyramid structure. Ephraim: Thou makest too Noise – in rejecting the scriptures and sacraments of much noise, friend. the Church of England, Quakers developed a method Sir George: Call me friend, and of worshipping than revolved around silence and the I’ll bump your block against inner communion of God and worshipper. the capstan. Friend – as part of the rejection of hierarchy, the Zachariah: Verily, George. Quakers replaced titles with the term Friend. They referred to themselves as Religious Society of Friends. George – as a Quaker, Zachariah would does not use Sir George’s title. Ephraim: I will distribute Much of the Quakers message was spread through among the poor, the good the printed word. Quakers communicated amongst books thou didst desire me. themselves through written monthly Epistles. Gammon: you Quakers never Quakers were renowned for their honesty. break your words. Jane: But she’s a Quaker, and Quakers dressed in very plain clothing as part of the I’m sure, every Sunday for testimony of simplicity; bearing witness to the notion church, I dress much finer that one must speak, dress and act simply in order to than her ladyship. focus on their inner spiritual life. Plain dress was also a way of levelling social hierarchy. Ephraim: Dovehouse, who, Quakers refused to swear oaths in law courts. though one of the faithful, was Quakers were also, owing to certain acts passed in an active magistrate the years following the Restoration, on the whole excluded from taking part in public office. In practice nonconformists were often exempted from some of these laws through the regular passage of Acts of Indemnity. Is this what happened with Dovehouse? www.bristololdvic.org.uk 15 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Act Four Scene One Act Five Scene Two Act Five Scene Five Lady Amaranth (on The Quakers believed that God was to be found Shakespeare): He must indeed within oneself as opposed to within the scriptures. have been filled with a divine spirit. Lady Amaranth: though a Quakers were mistrustful of pleasure seeking as they Quaker though seest I am believed it muddied their search for simplicity and merry. truthfulness: ‘Only the enthusiasm of a religious revival could sustain such a pattern of behaviour, which also included the normal Pietist prohibitions against dancing, card-­‐playing, theatre-­‐going, and any other form of social recreation which might bring the minority Quaker group into close contact with the different culture of the majority…’ Elizabeth Fry, John Kent, 1962 Ephraim: I cannot bend my Quakers rejected formal displays of hierarchy such as knee, nor take off my beaver. bowing and doffing their hats. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 16 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 The Navy Although Wild Oats is a comedy, it is set in a time of much violence, poverty and injustice -­‐ when poor men could be arbitrarily evicted without warning, mariners press-­‐ganged into the navy, and actors persecuted as rogues and vagabonds. Naval Jargon Cruising -­‐ to sail to and fro without any particular port to aim for [1.1] Stoved keg – a collapsed or breached barrel [1.1] Old Dutchman – a dutch sailor or boat [1.1] Gosport – a fortified seaport , the centre of the coast’s manufacture and provision of supplies, was separated from the more famous naval garrison by the mouth of Portsmouth harbour [1.1] Ballast – weight in the hold (usually of stones) to steady a ship and prevent sinking [1.1] Over the King’s bounty – a bonus payment for new recruits [1.1] Fingered the shot – stolen from the ammunition store to sell ashore [1.1] In ordinary – normally in reference to a part of the fleet under repair or decommissioned [1.1] Swab – a mild term of abuse reserved only for those fit to mop decks [1.1] Dog-­‐fish – from the shark family, but a diminutive sub species [1.1] Bomb-­‐boat – a licensed scavenger’s vessel, charged with cleaning the hulls of traffic on the Thames [1.1] Log-­‐book – a formal, written, account of essential information about a voyage [1.1] What rate is this vessel – the rate of a ship was its official tonnage, armament and class [2.2] Shallop – a small boat, primarily used in shallow water to convey passengers from a seagoing ship to shore [2.3] Bigness of a Rumbo Canakin – a small drinking vessel for a shot of rum [2.3] Grampus – a large fish of the cetaceous kind, such as a whale or dolphin [3.2] Drop astern – hold back [4.1] Buss her bob-­‐stays – a bob-­‐stay was a rope used to confine the bowsprit, thus counteracting the speed from the foresails [4.1] Bring to, and come down straight as a mast -­‐ to ‘bring to’ was to fasten down all sails when the ship was in harbour [4.1] www.bristololdvic.org.uk 17 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Pressed in the river -­‐ this process of enforced, often violent, conscription targeted returning merchant seamen, who were ‘pressed’ whilst still on board ship to form a crew on another [5.1] Keep out to sea – keep out of harm’s way and not be noticed. It is typical that John Dory should associate the sea with security, not with hazard [5.1] Sea-­‐store – provisions for survival [5.1] Privateer – a ship fitted out by private men to plunder enemies [5.2] Haul up – stand up on one’s own two feet [5.2] Crab-­‐walk – bow-­‐legged gait [5.2] Heave ahead – look out [5.4] Reef the foresail -­‐ to lower by gathering or rolling up the foresail, so as to bring to a sudden halt [5.4] Overset her by bringing to – overwhelm a vessel by fastening the sail and thus bring to a standstill [5.4] Impudent crimp – an overzealous recruiting officer [5.4] Post-­‐captain – holding a permanent commission as captain of a large vessel [5.4] www.bristololdvic.org.uk 18 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 The Strolling Player In Jack Rover, O’Keeffe depicts the insecure and frequently dangerous world of the 18th Century provincial actor. Rover’s way of life as a ‘strolling player’ was outlawed in 1737 by the Licensing Act. This effectively abolished the right of all provincial companies to perform. The same Act also meant that only patent theatres were able to perform drama – known as legitimate theatre, these royal patents were given to theatres in London meaning that during the 18th Century our very own Bristol Old Vic operated illegally. The Act came in the form of an amendment to the Act of Queen Anne relating to rogues and vagabonds. It pronounced players who had no legal settlement in their place of acting (such as a royal patent or license from the Lord Chamberlain) to be rogues and vagabonds. A subsequent clause stated that no person was to be authorised by the King’s Patent or by licence of the Chamberlain to act for hire or reward anywhere other than London or where the King was residing. Acting in the provinces had been made illegal and actors were to be treated by law as vagrants. Strolling players could be fined, have their possessions confiscated or be imprisoned without bail. However, the Act proved hard to enforce at scale and strolling players continued playing in market towns. Eventually, companies of travelling payers began erecting playhouses in these market towns, built for the sole purpose of acting. Royal patents soon followed, which gave a final stamp of authority and legality to the players. Many smaller companies still remained unlicensed, and therefore open to prohibition and arrest, but several town companies were assured in their position and needed no longer to work in constant fear of suppression. Every fresh royal patent necessitated an Act of Parliament to exempt the players from the provisions of the law, and it soon became evident that a more embracing Act was needed to end this nuisance. An Act was passed in 1788 whereby Justices were given the power to license theatrical representations, in the provinces, of plays which had been presented at the patent theatres, provided that the place was well outside London, Edinburgh, the King's residence or the Universities. www.bristololdvic.org.uk 19 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Articles and Reviews Pure gold, champagne, moonbeams and caviar With Wild Oats (Aldwych) the Royal Shakespeare Company have struck gold. Mere gold, do I say? Nay, gold and oil at once, and rubies and diamonds to the utmost profusion, mingled with vintage champagne, lightly chilled, caviar is there, also, of the finest quality, sprinkled with a few drops of juice from lemons picked by the soft white hands of beautiful virgins on the southern slopes of Mount Olympus, nor does that list exhaust the powers of this amazing and multi-­‐purpose spring, for from it pour, in addition, limitless quantities of moonbeams, ortolan's tongues, perfectly-­‐cut cucumber sandwiches, waterfalls, sonnets sung by angels to the sound of silver harps, and an army with banners that glitter from afar in the noonday sun. It will, I think, be apparent from my introduction that I enjoyed myself at this play. What may not be immediately discernible is the fact that anybody who does not enjoy himself at it must be dead, and indeed to a considerable extent decomposed. Wild Oats is a farce by an altogether forgotten Irish-­‐
born 18th Century man of the theatre, John O'Keeffe; first performed in 1791, it seems that it has not been revived for more than eighty years. Well, it has now. The story it tells is of dazzling ingenuity, you must pay very close attention whenever new characters enter, for they will at once proceed to explain a further twist in the plot, like the people in Agatha Christie or Wagner, and it would be a pity to get lost. Mistaken identities and cross purposes proliferate like midnight mushrooms; the characters are woven, one by one (sometimes two by two), into a glittering web of inter-­‐relationships; the scene flickers hobgoblinally from place to place (there is an enchanting set by Ralph Koltai, in which the same door keeps changing position); threescore bricks of plot are piled recklessly one upon another until it seems that they must tumble in hopeless confusion to the ground, yet stand as secure as St. Paul's; there is love at first sight, the overthrow of wrong-­‐doers and the triumph of virtue, the reconciliation of sons with estranged fathers and the last-­‐minute discovery of long-­‐lost children; there is a choleric Admiral, and his ex-­‐
seaman valet, who talk entirely in nautical metaphors (‘The worm of remorse has gnawed his timbers’), a beautiful Quaker lady (the author's attitude to her sect is astonishingly enlightened for the period, for she is portrayed as perfection itself while being allowed to remain entirely within the severe framework of her beliefs), and a gallant actor who is the centre and hero of the play, and who sprinkles throughout his conversation, with inexhaustible profligacy, perfectly apposite quotations from Shakespeare. It is generally supposed that the English drama languished for more than a century after the force of the Restoration had exhausted itself; there followed a desert punctuated only by a few oases like Goldsmith and Sheridan. Yet O'Keeffe, it appears, was enormously prolific from 1773 to 1813, and this play is better than She Stoops to Conquer (his first play was actually based on Goldsmith's work and called Tony Lumpkin in Town), being funnier, more ingenious and, though also sentimental, much more firmly in control of the sentiment; in fact I swear it is as good as all but the very best of Congreve and Sheridan. But it was lying forgotten for decades until now: what other treasures are there in O'Keeffe's work, and how many of his contemporaries might also now be looked over with advantage? www.bristololdvic.org.uk 20 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Certainly he has nothing to learn from even the best of earlier or later farceurs for intricacy of plot, humour of dialogue or charm of character. And he has something, at any rate to judge by this play, which the Feydeaus and their like, and indeed the Restoration dramatists and the Ben Traverses and their like, largely lack: a great humane gusto, a sense of harmony and decency and optimism, an ability to leave an audience weak with laughter yet realising that if they had done no more than smile they would still be weak from happiness. Clifford Williams's production is of a lightness, wit and rapidity that between them leave praise gasping in the rear, he has done nothing so superb on the funny side of the street since his famous Comedy of Errors in the early Sixties. Norman Rodway as the exploding Admiral is a joyous creation, a plump puppet come to glowing life; Joe Melia as his servant, Lisa Harrow* as the beautiful Quakerette and Patrick Godfrey as her hypocritical steward, give performances of lovely, full-­‐bodied juiciness. But the greatest of these is Alan Howard as the hero. If Hamlet was angry at actors who tear a passion to tatters, he would have loved Mr Howard, who with flawless grace puts the passion together again. The elegance and swagger of his playing (he is, incidentally, visibly and audibly enjoying every minute of it) are the 18th Century at its finest (it is worth remembering that Wild Oats was first performed in the same year as The Magic Flute), and he, in his turn, has done nothing with such consummate insouciance since, as Oberon, he hung upside-­‐down by the back of his knees from Peter Brook's trapeze and swung out over the front stalls while chatting happily to Puck. Whoever dug this masterpiece out for The Royal Shakespeare should be knighted at once; at once. Meanwhile, I declare that there is not to be found a more entirely delectable entertainment pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross. *The role was later taken over by Sinead Cusack. Bernard Levin The Sunday Times 19.12.76 www.bristololdvic.org.uk 21 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 100 Years On The success of Wild Oats, the Royal Shakespeare Company's inspired revival of John O'Keeffe's wild 18th Century comedy, marks a happy coincidence for its leading player, Alan Howard. Backstage at the Piccadilly Theatre last week, after the opening of the public-­‐demanded West End transfer, he told me of a touching ancestral discovery. Howard is the great-­‐grandson of the actor-­‐manager Edward Compton, founder and mainstay of the Compton Comedy Company. For years, he had the above drawing of his forbear proudly displayed on his mantelpiece -­‐ never understanding the inscription: ‘I am the bold Thunder.’ While reading the play (unstaged since 1886) for the RSC, he discovered to his amazement that it is the first line of his own role, the strolling player Jack Rover. Records were dug up, and sure enough Compton himself played Jack Rover at Stratford in 1882 and in London the following year. Howard felt ‘spooked’ by the whole thing, especially when Mander and Mitchenson, the theatre historians, presented him with a facsimile of the playbill for Compton's first London performance. It was almost to the day 100 years before the date of Howard's birth. Still and all, his family is not otherwise without distinction; he is great-­‐nephew to both Fay Compton and Compton Mackenzie, and on his father's side nephew of Leslie Howard. With relatives like that, who needs managers? The Sunday Times 24.4.77 Wild Oats has audience going wild with laughter It is a pity you can't get action replays in the theatre. It would mean the magic moments of The Royal Shakespeare Company could be relished again and again. And the 18th Century comedy, Wild Oats, which left the audience ecstatic when it opened at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, last night, is one complete magic moment. If the cast had volunteered to run through it again, I doubt if anyone in the packed house would have left their seat… Catherine Hansen Shields Gazette 21.2.79 www.bristololdvic.org.uk 22 Bristol Old Vic: Wild Oats Education Pack, 2012 Questions Before Seeing the Play… Consider the title ‘Wild Oats’ and watch out for the various ways in which the concept is used. Wild Oats was written in 1791. What challenges might this pose for a contemporary audience? The main character of Wild Oats is a ‘strolling player’. Having read the Strolling Players section in this education pack, can you think of a contemporary group that has a similar position in society today as touring actors in the 19th Century? If the part of Rover was written today, who would he be? Wild Oats was written in the wake of the French Revolution in which the bourgeoisie (middle class) overthrew the ruling aristocracy. There was much anxiety that a similar revolution would happen in England. When you watch the play, see if you can detect traces of this unease. After Seeing the Play… Wild Oats is a play of many locations. How did the design support this? How did the actors create different locations? Choose one character from the play. What journey did they undergo throughout the play and how did the actor portray this? Were there any elements of the production that surprised you? Why? How did this production update the play? In your opinion, how successful were these methods? How was sound and music used in this production? www.bristololdvic.org.uk 23