An extraordinary play about extraordinary women
I am sitting stuffing a bum roll. Later I will be mending corsets and making Amazon headdresses. I feel like Doll Common. Particularly as Mistress Betterton (Verity Mann) is directing my labours. This is all part and parcel of directing ‘Playhouse Creatures’, a moving often comic tale of the real life women who were pioneer actresses on the English stage.
This is an extraordinary play about extraordinary women. It is hard but important to remember that Shakespeare was writing the roles of Juliet, Desdemona and Cleopatra for men to perform.
King Charles II had seen women on stage in France when in exile, and so the possibility arose for English women to do the same. Waiting for a play to begin in a London theatre, the King questioned why it was late starting. The answer came, “Sire, the player queen is still shaving”! The result was a Royal Decree allowing women to legally act on stage.
This was by no means an easy route. These were five tough women and I am delighted to say I have five tough actresses to help me tell this story, supported by an excellent team of creatives. Come to see this show; you will laugh and you will cry. Now back to rehearsals and . . . the bum rolls and petticoats!
Carol Davies directs Saddleworth Players forthcoming production of ‘Playhouse Creatures’ at the Millgate Arts Centre from 2–9 February. Tickets from our booking site.
The perfect role does exist!
Mary Betterton is an absolute gift of a role for an actor. In real life she was one of the very first actresses on stage and feted as the best tragedian of her day. She came from a theatrical family and married one of the King’s Players’ leading men, Thomas Betterton. The play begins just as her star is waning and younger actresses are waiting in line to take the great roles. Her husband will, of course, continue to play the lead , partnered by fresh blood. Playhouse Creatures is set in 1669, and prompts us to ruminate on how little the lot of an actress has changed.
That said, the role of Mary Betterton could not be more perfect for me. Not only do I get to play her, in all her high restoration finery — I also get to play excerpts from her performances and rehearsals from Amazons through to maids but, time and time again coming back to her favourite; Lady Macbeth. It’s a challenge, but a thoroughly worthwhile one.
Playhouse Creatures is a gripping play set in a perilous time when rags to riches dreams really could come true, but equally, fortunes could reverse in the blink of an eye.
Verity Mann plays Mary Betterton in Saddleworth Players forthcoming production of ‘Playhouse Creatures’ at the Millgate Arts Centre from 2–9 February. Tickets from our booking site.
A rollercoaster of historical proportions
So you think your life is a rollercoaster? We ain’t got nuffin on the character I play in Playhouse Creatures, Elizabeth Farley. At the start of the play her father, a preacher, has just died, and as an upright young woman she is trying to carry on his work, even though she’s been left destitute. Towards the end of the play she looks for a gutter to lie in, having earned nothing begging and attempting to sell herself all afternoon, and we don’t see her again. In between she becomes an actress, a leading lady, the King’s mistress, and a mother. She soars on stage and plumbs the depths of life experience ... and it’s a real challenge to pull it off convincingly.
This is my debut with Saddleworth Players, having moved the great distance from Rochdale last year, and it’s a cracking play for the five of us to get our teeth into. I love the way April de Angelis writes, particularly her historical plays about the theatre, and the female characters she creates. These women are used and abused, have become hardened in many ways, and yet display moments of care and compassion which override their need for self preservation. Come ready to ride a rollercoaster of historical proportions, with quite a bit of laughter and a few surprises thrown in.
Angela Bryan plays Elizabeth Farley in Saddleworth Players forthcoming production of ‘Playhouse Creatures’ at the Millgate Arts Centre from 2–9 February. Tickets from our booking site.
Doll Common, a toothless Cockney hag!
Oh, what a joy to play Doll Common, a toothless old Cockney hag! Based on a real character, Katherine Corey was an English actress of the Restoration era, one of the first female performers to appear on the public stage in Britain.
It was Samuel Pepys who, admiring Corey’s talents, named her Doll Common. In her 30 years on the stage Corey played a wide range of roles.
My first play I was aged 9, I joined Saddleworth Players in 1973 aged … “NO, I shall not divulge. I shall keep that hugged close to my chest like a sick cat”.
Anne Wright plays Doll Common in Saddleworth Players forthcoming production of ‘Playhouse Creatures’ at the Millgate Arts Centre from 2–9 February. Tickets from our booking site.
Bringing the benefactress to life
Hi everyone. I am Lorraine Reynolds and will be playing the role of Helen Sutherland in this production of the Pitman Painters. This is a very different part from the previous tomfoolery assigned to me via the Farndale Murder Mystery, and the Bronte spoof which both took place at the Millgate earlier this year.
Helen Sutherland, who was a real person, heiress to the P&O shipping line, has more money than she knows what to do with, and spends her time as a benefactress to the Arts, which is her passion.
Despite this rather grand pedigree, Helen is a complex character who is introduced to the Pitmen and does her best to support and encourage them in their artistic endeavours.
Playing alongside this talented group of men has been great fun and it has been interesting to watch them collapse into giggles more often than I expected. The story of the Pitman Painters is both touching and heartwarming and I hope you will enjoy this production as much as I have enjoyed being a part of it.
‘The Pitmen Painters’ will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 24 November until 1 December. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking site.