One of the most popular plays of the 1700s by Susannah Centlivre is currently running at the Southwark Playhouse until 6 October. Book tickets here.
The Busy Body was written in 1709 and performed over 450 times before 1800. The character of Marplot was one of the most celebrated comic creations of the Restoration stage and was first performed by David Garrick, who counted it among his favourite roles.
It’s great to have an opportunity to see this play in London. Read more about Centlivre and some of her contemporaries in my The Behn Legacy Section.
I thought you might appreciate this little excerpt from The Busy Body- which I’ve adapted quite a bit (as you can probably guess from what follows)- this is part of the new prologue. The original, written by a male peer of Centlivre’s, was effectively an apology for the fact she was a woman and a plea for the audience not to be too mean or judgemental because of this unfortunate disadvantage! Here’s the new bit…
I do hope you’ll make it down to Southwark, I think this play might be right up your street!
Don’t underestimate our wit
When words are by a woman writ
Historic’ly we were omit- ted
But we’re back, so just admit
We’re worth an evening in the stalls
We might be girls but we’ve got balls
Our plays have played on stages all
On boards, on carts, in music halls
For many wenches since our day
Have penned many a wondrous play
There’s Aphra Ben and Mary Pix and
Hannah Cowley, Lizzie Griffiths,
Frances Kemble, Mary Mitford,
Charlotte Smith, Joanna Baillie,
Frances Burney got quite far
Lizzie Inchbald was a star
Catherine Gore and Sophie Lee
In the nineteenth century
Then when Churchill ruled the age
Caryl Churchill ruled on stage
Lavery, Upton, Helman,Coxon,
Kirkwood, Prebble, Edmundson,
Sarah Daniels, Tucker Green
Sarah Kane was quite obscene,
Charlotte Jones and Anya Reiss*
Feehily and de Angelis
Laura Wade who’s very posh
Lots of boys saying ‘rah’ and ‘tosh.
Gupta, Lenkewitz and Ruhl
Polly Stenham (still at school)
Wertenbaker, Leyshon, Harris.
Yasmina Reza in Paris,
Whittington, Rona Munro
Penny Skinner, E V Crowe
So now for your most keen delight
Revived after a long respite,
Wenches, wastrels, please applaud,
Our female wit who braved the boards.
Susannah makes her bold return,
So fellahs, may you watch and learn…