Modern Productions of 18th Century Plays
Abatract: This essay discusses the modern-day production of the main British plays of the eighteenth century that are still performed today, including John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, William Wycherley’s The Country Wife, George Etherege’s The Man of Mode, William Congreve’s The Way of the World, Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lovers, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal.
Plays of Eighteenth century British literature have withstood the test of time in many ways. The writers of the time knew very well how to pinpoint the faults in human nature and satirize them to make them enjoyable for an audience watch even though the audiences varied a great deal. “The range of social classes, professions, and cultural attainments was fairly great, and the taste of the spectators as well as their motives in attending the playhouses varied considerably.”1 Human nature has not changed very much since the 1700’s, and the plays that were popular then have remained so until today. The shame in the matter is that while still applicable to today’s society and still found to be enjoyable entertainment by today’s standards, the plays of the 18th century are not as widely produced and performed as one might think or might like. The main plays of the eighteenth century that are still performed today are John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, William Wycherley’s The Country Wife, George Etherege’s The Man of Mode, William Congreve’s The Way of the World, Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lovers, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal. Each of these plays brings something different to the modern stage as they did in the eighteenth century.
The Country Wife has been performed all over since it was written in 1675. It’s sexual undertones and themes of morality have kept it interesting even for today’s audiences to be able to enjoy. The Victoria Conservatory of Music Opera Studio recently performed The Beggar’s Opera, and the Northcott Theatre Company performed The Man of Mode in 2001. These are mainly small theatres, but they still serve the purpose of giving the public the opportunity to experience these plays that are over two centuries old.
The School for Scandal and The Way of the World are both relatively popular plays that are performed with some consistency. The School for Scandal had a run at the Banff Center in 1993 then at the Shakespeare Theatre in 1995. The year 2000 brought the play to Archway Theatre where this “delightfully witty, elegant and stylish comedy which satirises a society consumed by gossip, deceit and superficialities” 2 was performed. In 2001 it was performed at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier. “Presented here in a production that originated at Canada's Stratford Festival, Brian Bedford's production of The School for Scandal is a delight.”3 The Way of the World was performed in the Opera house in Manchester during the...