Everyone Has Their Price.
This was a play that I wrote for Advanced Level students based on "Volpone" by Ben Jonson. We wanted something lively, using strong movement and gestures and with its roots in Commedia Del 'Arte. As you may be aware, Jonson believed his characters should have a strong identity and to that end gave them names that reflected their personality. We chose an animal theme and gave the main character the name of Marcus Reynard, which relates to Volpone. The play is a tale of greed and lust, dealing with the way in which Reynard pretends to be on his death bed so that he can trick various people into giving him expensive presents in the hope that they will inherit his vast fortune. He is aided by his servant, Francesca Buzz who plays them all off against one another and spirals their greed. They are prepared to go to any lengths to inherit and quite literally sell themselves. If you are interested, the script and performing rights are available, see Sales.
We wanted to use masks in the tradition of Commedia but at this time I had not discovered the brown tape method as detailed in Resources so after fruitless experiments with molding plastic we decided to cut our losses and use make-up. With the exception of Reynard who simply painted his face gold to symbolise greed, the characters had a white base on which we tried to add elements that clearly suggested character. This may be useful to students thinking about make-up design for their Drama examination. Obviously we were working at an exaggerated level because our venue, the school hall was large and besides we wanted an overall outrageous effect.
Marcus Reynard is a clever and amoral character who is obsessed with greed. The gold on his face is a constant reminder of his ultimate goal. Later in the play he pretends to have died and disguises himself as a servant. The gold face however shows that even then his true nature will show through. He wears a shirt and tie with braces to give a City feel reminiscent of the Yuppy of the 80s.
Francesca Buzz is the real power behind Reynard and there is a nice contrast in making her female as it shows that women can be just as cunning and aggressive as men. Her hair is pulled back to make her more severe and yet is long which hints at her sexuality. She wears a shabby , black trouser suit. Reynard keeps her poor but it shows that she has learned the image she needs to project if others are to take her seriously. Her lips are full and red, again hinting at her sexuality and yet her eyeshadow is blue and gives a coldness which is her overiding motivation.
Tony Eel is even more obsessed than Reynard and he has a nasty temper to boot. He is one of life's wannabes and has an over inflated opinion of himself. The sideburns lend him the air of a Spiv and the Hitler mustache allied with the red eyeshadow, attests to his temper. A very effective glre of fury was possible with these facial highlights. The red paisley shirt is loud and tasteless, open to the waist with medallion and patch of chest hair to complete the classic macho stereotype. Don't ask about the white stain on the front of the trousers!
Mrs Celia Eel is demure and at the mercy of her jealous husband. The red circles on the cheeks, the cupid's bow lips and the arched eyebrows all create the impression of an Aunt Sally doll, which is exactly what she is to her husband. The eyelashes have been emphasised and again, the eyeshadow is blue which signifies the coldness of her feelings towards her husband. The blue polka-dot dress is feminine and contrasts nicely with the red in her husband's outfit. and the gloves complete the overall impression of gentle femininity.
Montague Prey is a respectable lawyer, at least on the surface and this explains his classic three piece suit , bowler hat, briefcase and brolly. The nostrils are flared to give a predatory look combined with the eyebrow and chin shape to give a very sly look from certain angles. His waistcoat is red, a modicum of colour but definitely not flashy. The whole eye socket is coloured with grey eyeshadow to add age.
Old Mr is a parody, bent nearly double with a dirty mac, walking stick and cap, the spectacles complete the picture of an old scrooge. Blocks of black under the eyes to represent bags have been teamed with excessive wrinkles on the forehead and around the mouth. He is also wearing wooly gloves and an old man's suit, the kind that you can find hundreds of in charity shops.
His son is a young thugt. Loud shirt, bomber jacket and baggy trousers worn with huge trainers is an instant picture of youth. For the face he has a black eye, picked up in a pub brawl and the stubble of a youthful attempt at a beard. The scar on his right cheek lends him a comedy villian air and the raised eyebrows hint at innocence in spite of his aggression.
The vamp of the piece is wearing the classic short blck skirt, stockings and ruched white shirt which is tied at the front. She has a pillbox hat which is a sad attempt to add a touch of sophistication and is red to denote har passion. There is the hint of punk about her in the two tone striped eyeshadow and the zigzag marking on her left cheek along with the star beauty spot. Full pink lips are always in a pout and she wears long dangling earings that would put Pat Butcher to shame! No eyebrows for her as she plucks them mercilessly.
The Detective Constable is our last character and is the classic PC Plod stereotype. Shabby suit teamed with comedy police helmet means that he is slow and a narural figure of fun. There can be no hope of justice from such a man. Awful seventies tie shows he is locked in the past and he has a beer belly from all those after duty pints. The handlebar mustache is reminiscent of Hercule Poirot, although his detective skills are nowhere near this league.
The set aimed to create a stylish bachelor pad with its high tech gadgets and the bed being a focal point as Reynard is supposed to be ill. Gray, black and white were the colours which echoed the facial design. Large curtains hung at the entrance gave a touch of elegance, as did the black and white floor which reminds us of a chess board- appropriate as the various characters are all trying to maneuver themselves in the game. On the wall is a print of a wolf howling at the moon which reinforces the animal symbolism in the play. The french doors open out onto a balcony with views of the city- an important glimpse of the world outside as Reynard is holed up in his lair. There is the suugestion of a park which shows that the flat is in a highly sought after area of the city. in order to break up the walls and reduce the hight of the flats there is a black line 1/3 of the way up and the walls are grey on the lower section and white above. This scheme is echoed in the duvet set on the bed and is suitably masculine. The basic concept is that everything on stage is there for a reason and communicates something more about the play and its theme.
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