Background on Victorian Theatre
- Stage and Stage Machinery
- Proscenium arch theatres- fore-stage projecting just beyond
- Downstage> door for entrances and exits
- And/Or doors upstage for P.Arch
- Back of Stage formed by shutters
- Lighting>Gas from footlights and auditorium
- Once curtain up at beginning and down at the end > scene changes visible
Changes in 19th century
- Very few downstage doors left in theatres
- Orchestra pit lower than stage, replaces the fore-stage= picture frame stage.
- Creating illusion- a’picture’ This was important to Victorians
- By 1880, Bancroft put a huge gilded frame around stage at Haymarket Theatre in London
- Provides a big divide between actors and audience
- Contrast to Elizabethan aim for productions.
- Stage itself often larger than auditorium (including wings) Need space of stage in both wings
- The height of stage is twice as high as the proscenium arch i.e around 60ft
- Depth of stage varied enormously
- Area under stage was excavated for machinery space.
- Above stage machinery Things ‘flying’ down from the tower. A gridiron- a wooden structure with stage cloths.
- ‘Act Drops’ hide away any scene changes.
- Painted front curtain> up at beginning, down at the end.
- Ropes on pulleys> pulled by hand and all manually managed.
- Fly galleries connected by ladders and/or catwalks.
- ‘Fly men’ controlling this on signal from director or prompter.
- The underside of the lowest fly gallery would hold shutters in grooves.
- Shutters painted in standardized way- pre-painted to depict certain scenes. i.e castle, palace, forest.
These notes are aimed at Edexcel A2 Drama Unit 6 - 16th-20th Century Performance Conditions, but will also be suitable for other A Level exam board specifications and for other courses.