By Alan Bennett
A suite of 4 Alan Bennett performs, with an advent via the writer which describes the history to their writing and function.
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Additional info for Alan Bennett Plays 1: Forty Years On, Getting On, Habeas Corpus and Enjoy
This actor claims to improvise his language, or ‘dispose my speech to suit the habit of my part’ (‘Induction’, l. 41). His statement of his ability to flatter and titillate the other characters, and by implication the spectators, with his speech, leads another of the boy actors to exclaim, ‘Thou promisest more than, I hope, any spectator gives faith of performance’ (‘Induction’, ll. 60–1). The latter’s ‘hope’ that they are not expected to provide such a convincing characterisation of these roles hints at an anxiety about the extent to which these players are capable of representing these characters and satisfying the expectations of the audience.
48 Field, who was aged approximately 22 by the time of the performance of Epicoene, challenges a concept of this company as one of children in terms of his age. The fact that this latter company adopted the structure of apprenticeship in c. 49 This apprentice structure aligns the Queen’s Revels with the adult playing companies – a similarity which is further implied by the fact that this company successfully merged with the adult playing company the Lady Elizabeth’s Men in 1613. Yet while the adult companies consisted of boys who were apprenticed to adult players and both masters/sharers and apprentices appeared on stage, the Queen’s Revels largely consisted of boys apprenticed to managers and sharers who were not players, and Nathan Field, for example, a leading player and playwright for the 36 Performing Childhood in the Early Modern Theatre children’s company, did not become a sharer or master in the company until it merged with the Lady Elizabeth’s men.
However, this plot convention also reveals the extent to which gender was interchangeable and indeterminate on this stage. The boy player, aligned with the feminine and in the process of becoming masculine, could in fact play any part. While this thematic motif draws on the presence of only young and prepubescent boys on this stage in the early years of the revived children’s playing companies, this is not necessarily true of the plays performed by the companies in the later years of their existence.