The Compleat Female Stage Beauty | by Jeffrey Hatcher

Review

“To the Old Court, there to see a play in which theatre folk did portray their own kind. The true history of the last of the boy actors, and of the first woman to appear on stage, told in nineteen tableaux, sometimes separated by gloomy silence, sometimes happily linked by Mags Layton’s lively fiddle. Mr Hart depicted one Ned Kynaston, Green Room hermaphrodite and famed Desdemona. Excellently done, with a most impressive presence. Spurned by his lover, reduced to capering before the coarse crowd at the Cock Pit, he finds salvation in tutoring his rival [strongly played by Mrs Barnes] in the art of dying. Two superbly stage-struck women in the persons of Pretty Witty Nell [Miss Woodgate] and seamstress Maria [Miss Dunmore]. Mr Stemp gave us his Betterton, ornament of the London stage, Mr Piper a painted, lisping Sir Charles. The Merry Monarch was pleasingly personated by Mr Tree, besotted with his Nell, both of them charmingly cross-dressed for the Court theatricals. Sam Pepys the scribbler, inseparable from his gigantic journal, was portrayed by Mr Powis. Pretty panelling, a stylish painted park, mock marble columns and flickering candlelight mightily maintained the illusion of stage and town; thunder and birdsong were ingeniously produced, and at the close we had a bawdy catch to encourage our applause. I left the theatre richer by one firm, ripe orange, and wiser in the ways of Restoration nobles, ladies, bawds and thespians.”

Michael Gray c/o his Arts Blog