The seating of the audience for the performances that took place August 2009 in the Great Hall at Hampton Court was at tables running the length of the Great Hall with the women on the right and the men on the left ( as one looks down the hall ). The audience sat both sides of the tables so that those sitting on the inside had to turn round and lean against the tables.
A number of factors informed the disposition of the seating for the performances.
1. The use of the tables was a possibility created by the representation of the Great Hall by Historic Royal Palaces since the tables were one of the things added as part of this process. We tried a number of different permutations including the possibility of sitting on benches or sitting in two / three rows behind the tabes with no-one sitting on the inside. Netiher of these options worked. In particular, having the audience sitting behing each other created serious sight-line issues.
2. We wanted to retain the sense of the performance as an event. We did discuss having food or snacks on the tables as part of the performance but we decided that this would not be useful. Working on text made us realise what a complex work the Play of the Weather is and is in turn affected our decision regarding the seating of the audience since it seemed to us that Heywood clearly had an expectation that his audience would be able to see and hear the play. The Play of the Weather needs a degree of audience concentration and this mitigated in our minds against the provision of food / snacks for the audience.
3. We divided the audience on gender grounds for a number of reasons. This had worked well in the workshop we had already conducted at Hampton Court in 2007. It also encouraged the audience to view the performances in a different context to other modern theatrical productions. There is also historical support for the audience being divided on gender.