2012 A Laughing Matter

The first Open Air theatre by the Aldermaston Players held at “The Barn” Meadow Brook, Frouds Lane, Aldermaston, RG7 4LG –  the original home of Blues on the Meadow

A Laughing Matter is a humorous and sometime bawdy comedy written by April de Angelis in 2002 for the National Theatre. It’s a ‘modern’ restoration comedy, if there is such a classification!

The story tells the end of David Garrick’s acting career as it intertwines with the opening performance of She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith.  In part it conveys the story of the foundation of the modern english theatre and modern acting. David Garrick (1717-1779) was the foremost influence on taking acting from the ‘melodramatic’ to ‘method’.

Drury Lane Theatre circa 1808

The current Theatre Royal is the most recent in a line of four theatres on the site dating back to 1663, making it the oldest London theatre. For its first two centuries, Drury Lane could “reasonably have claimed to be London’s leading theatre”. For most of that time, it was one of a handful of patent theatres, granted monopoly rights to the production of “legitimate” drama in London (meaning spoken plays, rather than opera, dance, concerts, or plays with music) .

The first theatre on the location was built at the behest of Thomas Killigrew in the early years of the English Restoration. Actors appearing at this “Theatre Royal in Bridges Street” included Nell Gwyn and Charles Hart. It was destroyed by fire in 1672. Killigrew built a larger theatre in the same spot, designed by Sir Christopher Wren; renamed the “Theatre Royal in Drury Lane,” it opened in 1674. This building lasted nearly 120 years, under leadership including Colley Cibber, David Garrick, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The great Ulster Shakespearian actor Charles Macklin performed in this building. In 1791, under Sheridan’s management. The building was demolished in 1794.

Playwright: April De Angelis

April De Angelis

April De Angelis (born c.1960) is a British dramatist of part Sicilian descent. She began her career in the 1980s as an actress with the Monstrous Regiment theatre company but in 1987 her play Breathless was a prize winner at the 1987 Second Wave Young Women’s Writing Festival.

Her plays often feature historical figures. Playhouse Creatures and A Laughing Matter are set in the London theatrical milieu of the 17th and 18th centuries respectively. Wanderlust examines Victorian colonialism and Ironmistress is a verse play exploring Lady Charlotte Guest‘s factory ownership.

De Angelis tends to write to commission and several of her plays have been produced by Max Stafford-Clark‘s Out of Joint theatre company.

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Historical Characters in the Play

David Garrick

Eva Garrick

Samuel Johnson


Edmund Burke

James Boswell

Peg Woffington

Charles Macklin

Hannah More

Susanna Cibber

Spanger Barry