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Exeter Drama Company

Playhouse Creatures - September 2001

Playhouse Creatures, written in 1993 by April de Angelis, is set in the 1600's and is about five pioneering professional actresses set in a Restoration theatre. Performers were not granted the reverence that we associate today with watching a play.

Playhouse Creatures - Doll Common, Nell Gwyn, Mrs Betterton and Mrs Marshall

Many spectators treated the playhouse like a kind of club and might chat, argue, or even occasionally fight duels while the players tried to make themselves heard. Behind the stage was the scene room where props were kept and where the players rested and waited for their cues. Above this were the dressing rooms, called tiring-rooms.

Playhouse Creatures - Mrs Farley

Any member of the public could enter the tiring-rooms and many did, especially men visiting the actresses. Companies usually contained between twenty and thirty players, who were recruited from a variety of sources. The recruitment of actresses was problematic because no respectable woman would consider a stage career, and yet the profession demanded women of a better class as an actress had to be able to learn lines quickly, to sing and dance and to emulate a lady's behaviour. This left only a narrow middle stratum of society from which actresses could be drawn.

Playhouse Creatures - Mrs Marshall and Nell Gwyn

Doll Common   ................. Jenny Trace
Nell Gwyn    ................. Charlotte Nesden-Violett
Mrs Farley    ................. Cara Denham
Mrs Betterton ................. Denise Hill
Mrs Marshall   ................. Charlotte Dawson
Directed by    ................. Ian Guy