Modern Doubling Technique

Conditional Factors on Doubling Decisions

John Cobbler

John Cobbler (Jason Gray) listens to the Vitner's Boy (Derek Genova) in the following scene.

Distribution of Labour

When doubling one has to consider how the roles are distributed amongst the cast. In this instance, when deciding which of the clowns should double with the receivers, the fact that John Cobbler is a large role might incline the director to double the receivers with Lawrence and Robin.

Costumes and Beards


The red costumes of the recievers. (Paul Hopkins as Prince Henry, Scott Clarkson as Receiver 1, and Adam Fraser as Receiver 2).

The director also needs to consider the costumes needed for each character and whether quick-change is a possibility. Generally speaking the longer the scene the easier it is for the actors to change character. However the length of time necessary varies depending on the complexity of costume needed for the characters involved: an actor can quickly transform himself into a monk or priest by throwing a cassock over his previous costume but changing from a lady into a young boy requires much more time. In this instance the receivers wore simple red tunics and striking red hats over their basic costumes to identify them as servants of the king and it would be possible for them to wear their costumes for Robin and Lawrence underneath. We also found that throwing on a false beard was an easy way to distinguish one character from the next.

Versatility of the Actors


Scott Clarkson in FV as: 1. French Soldier (with Alon Nashman as Derrick), 2. Archbishop of Canterbury, 3. Thief, 4. Reciever

It is also important to consider whether the two parts assigned to one actor are within that actor's range. Will they be able to convincingly portray both of the characters? When an actor has to play two characters appearing on stage in quick succession as they would here, that actor must be able to create strikingly different characterizations to avoid confusing the audience.

Specialization of the Actors


Left: Alon Nashman as Derrick. Right: Paul Hopkins as the Prince. Paul played "prince" characters in all three QM plays. Alon specialized in physical, clown-type characters.

Certain actors specialized in certain types of roles: the apprentice boys for example would play women's roles or roles characterized as "boys." We know that Queen's man William Knell specialized in playing lead roles in the original company, much as Paul Hopkins did in our company. Other Queen's Men, like Richard Tarlton and Robert Wilson, were famous for their clowning. This did not necessarily exclude them from playing other kinds of roles but we suspect that the larger roles would usually be given to a specialist. When doubling therefore one must establish what skills each role calls for and which roles require a specialist. In our example, John Cobbler requires a specialist clown actor but the supporting clowns, Lawrence and Robin, can be played by company members with less well-developed comic skills.

Contrasting Types


The working-class receivers (Scott Clarkson and Adam Fraser) stand to the right of the Prince (Paul Hopkins). The prince's aristocratic buddies stand on the left, from left to right: Tom (Derek Genova), Ned (Matthew Krist), and Jockey (David Kynaston).

While we have to consider the versatility of the actors and their specializations, casting actors in contrasting roles helps them to distinguish between their characters. It is easier to distinguish, for example, between a young character and an old character, a rich character and a poor character. Characters that have specific professions like priests, taverners, scholars, etc. make for easy doubling; the numerous aristocrats in the plays distinguished only by their titles present more of a challenge because they are all of the same social class and one of the principle distinctions between characters in these plays is class. In our example, the receivers and the watchmen are all working class characters; the prince and his friends are upper class characters. The hierarchy in early modern culture was marked by clothing but also by the way people carried themselves. In the SQM experiment we developed physical distinctions between aristocratic and working class characters. In this picture, we can see the working class receivers contrasted with the Prince and his aristocratic friends.

Doubling Decision

Recievers and Watchman

Scott Clarkson as a confident thief (left) and a frightened receiver (right).

The class of the characters proved a highly influential factor in doubling decisions for the project as it allowed the actors to make clear distinctions between the roles they were doubling. I chose not to double the receivers with the watchmen, Lawrence and Robin, partly because they were too similar in class and in attitude - they are all scared. One of the receivers (Adam Fraser) would later play the Earl of Oxford, and the other (Scott Clarkson) played numerous roles, including the thief later in the watchmen scene. While the Thief is also a working class character he believes he is higher class due to his association with the prince and his pride allowed for a different kind of self-presentation that distinguished him from the terrified and subservient receiver.

Casting the Play

Once the doubling chart is complete and all options considered, the play is ready to be cast. Doubling options are combined to create lines of characters that can be given to specific actors. The result is a final doubling chart that assigns every role in the play to an actor. The final SQM doubling chart for Famous Victories is only one solution to the casting challenges. There are always many options for doubling and, lacking concrete evidence, we cannot be sure how the plays were cast by the original company. In practice, the SQM doubling decisions were often determined by pragmatic factors rather than consideration of the historical evidence.