60th Anniversary International ConferenceTHIS EVENT HAS TAKEN PLACE
12th-14th September 2008
Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, Yorkshire
The 60th Anniversary International Conference formed part of The Society for Theatre Research's year long celebration of its sixtieth birthday, and was held at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond. Scholars from Europe and North America were invited to share knowledge and expertise concerning the Georgian Theatre with some ninety delegates, over what was an enthralling and informative weekend.
In May 1788, the actor manager Samuel Butler signed a twenty-one-year lease with the Richmond Corporation, for a property on Friars Wynd that he would convert to a theatre. The cost of the lease was £5 per annum. Butler's wife, formerly Frances Jefferson, was a member of the company, as was her brother George. Their older half-brother, Joseph Jefferson, left England for America in 1795, and there founded the great Jefferson 'family of actors': all three were the offspring of Thomas Jefferson born in Ripon (1728), a 'well-graced actor' and some time member of Garrick's company.
At registration STR members each received a superb facsimile copy of the 1805 publication of "The Theatric Tourist by a theatrical Amateur," one James Winston. The book is described as "a unique record of provincial theatre at the close of the eighteenth century - compiled, illustrated and published by James Winston". The edition is published by the Society for Theatre Research and the British Library: it was edited by Iain Mackintosh and has an introduction by Marcus Risdel, Librarian and archivist at the Garrick Club.
Following registration delegates were invited to an opening reception at Richmond Town Hall where they were welcomed by the Mayor of Richmond and the Chairman of the Georgian Theatre Royal.
The next morning saw the commencement of the conference's programmed sessions. It is hoped that complete texts of papers and topics referred to in the following pages will be made available at a later date. Abstracts from Professor White's 'Eulogy to Dr. Richard Southern and entr'actes are quoted more fully.
Iain Mackintosh introduced the Keynote Speaker Jane Moody (University of York)
Dramatizing the Nation: The Rise of Provincial Theatre in Eighteenth Century Britain
Extracts from Professor Moody's address:
My talk this morning takes us on a journey back in time to the Georgian playhouse, but it begins in the aftermath of 9/11. Its premise is a simple, but polemical one: that the Georgian theatre was one of the most dynamic cultural institutions Britain has created. This is a story about building institutions and the making of national and global identities not simply in London, but in almost every town and city across and beyond the nation.
In particular, I want to suggest, the history of the Georgian theatre - the history of this beautiful building - offers us a narrative for our own troubled, war-torn times: a story about the creation of citizenship.
In the months following the bombing of the twin towers, citizenship suddenly came to dominate public policy in Britain. Tests, ceremonies, initiatives within communities and, more recently, inside mosques, began to proliferate: within a year, citizenship had become a compulsory school subject. Politicians began to see it as a kind of ideological Holy Grail: the concept around which Britain could build shared values of tolerance, respect and justice in a multicultural society, a pre-emptive weapon against Islamist radicalization. Citizenship, in other words, became the government's new idea for uniting the nation, an idea which took hold because of a persuasive fear that what it meant to be British could no longer be taken for granted. ...
Citizenship, I want to argue, also gives us a key to unlock the secrets of the Georgian playhouse. It helps us to understand why so many theatres were being built in Britain, especially between 1760 and 1790; why the government allowed its ban on performances outside London to lapse; and why these playhouses acquired such a vital place in the cultural life of the nation. ...
So what made the Georgian playhouse so distinctive as a form of urban sociability? There are, I think, three major reasons. First, unlike elite meeting places such as assembly rooms, play going was a cultural activity that embraced all classes, from aristocrats to apprentices. The division of the auditorium into the boxes, pit and gallery nonetheless brought these groups together in a single, intimate space; Georgian spectatorship emphasized common experience and shared identity. Secondly, the business of theatre is the creation of illusion, the telling of dramatic stories which may be true. Performance, I'll be suggesting, became a compelling form of public entertainment in this period because of its success in presenting new dramas about the emergence of a nation. [Indeed, it was probably through performance, rather than through print, that much of the population gained access to cosmopolitan ideas]. Thirdly, the Georgian theatre was built upon the pleasure of laughter. Its most successful and enduring plays are comedies and comic afterpieces: comedies about money, about social mobility, about geographical dislocation, about gossip and scandal, and about love. Above all, comedy became the genre through which the Georgian playhouse transformed conflict of many different kinds into laughter. ...
In these new playhouses, urban audiences moved for the first time into the separate areas of pit, box and gallery. This division is so familiar to us that I think we tend to underplay its enormous consequences for Georgian play going and performance. Paradoxically, this act of social separation gave the eighteenth-century theatre its extraordinary social inclusiveness. The polemical claim of the Georgian theatre was to represent not simply the aristocracy or the trading classes, but the nation. ...
The building of Georgian theatres required tremendous commercial acumen and acute political sensitivity. Managers had to deflect strong opposition from local manufacturers (anxious that play going was incompatible with productive labour), from Methodist preachers (who insisted that performance was the devil's work) and from evangelical opinion in general. In 1764, the new Glasgow theatre was burnt to the ground on its opening night by an angry religious crowd. Methodist opposition drove companies out of particular towns; preachers condemned new theatres from the pulpit, and even sent managers threatening letters. But this hostility was offset by religious support from the established church, which clearly recognised the playhouse's capacity for promoting what we would now call social cohesion. ...
The publication of Winston's Theatric Tourist records many of the transformations I have been describing. The word 'tourist' was a very recent coinage (1800 is the first recorded usage), reflecting increases in wealth, and improvements in transport which encouraged visits to places of scenic and cultural interest. It's possible that his readers included such curious travellers, but Winston identifies his audience as 'theatric tourists' who wish to learn 'how to chuse and regulate their Country Engagements', in other words, actors, aspiring to ply their trade around Britain. Having been a strolling actor for many years, with friends and correspondents across the nation, Winston was in a strong position to assemble such a wealth of information. His comments about particular theatres and the character of their audiences, are designed to help performers considering where to take their next engagement. This is a volume for the actor (or potential actor manager) who is calculating financial and theatrical chances in the dramatic economy. Ironically, it was published at a moment when the Georgian theatre's commercial and cultural pre-eminence was already starting to falter. ...
Let's turn to the plays which Georgian audiences saw in these theatres and, in particular, to a few of the period's hit comedies. What I want to suggest is that comedy became an important form for exploring the values we associate with citizenship. ...
This comedy is a new global form in which oceans and continents displace families; war and imperial conquest divide them. Though the history of comedy abounds with dispersed families, Georgian plays make their separations and reconciliations out of utterly contemporary acts of travel and migration: men coming back from years spent in trading in India (think of Sir Oliver in Sheridan's School for Scandal), or protagonists apparently lost at sea during imperial wars. One of society's most pressing problems was how to deal with huge shifts in wealth brought about by colonial expansion; another was the political and moral legitimization of the British soldier as, in Hannah Cowley's words, the ultimate 'citizen of the world'. ...
As William Hazlitt points out, laughter arises out of incongruity, as we recognise the difference between what things are and how things ought to be. Prejudice, narrow-mindedness, discrimination, religious intolerance, ethnic conflict: these are the threats the Georgian playwrights see as pulling a nation apart. Irish dramatists seem to have the dramatic edge in bringing these conflicts to the comic surface. In Charles Macklin's play, The Man of the World, the hero ...challenges his father's political and moral authority by wishing for a 'bold extinction of all parties; particularly those of the English, Irish and Scotch'. What matters ... are not distinctions of party or geographical identity, but simply the moral difference between an honest man and a knave. The true citizen, he insists, is he 'who wishes equal justice to the merit and demerit of every subject of Great Britain'.
The Georgian playhouse was a partisan, volatile and chauvinistic institution: ... But the glib patriotism of these plays is perhaps best understood in relation to the theatre's progressive interest in promoting social unity and resisting prejudice within the emerging nation. ...
On this stage and many others, audiences laughed at ethnic and regional stereotypes - the loquacious Irishman, grasping Jew, or a ponderously slow Yorkshireman - but also came to see those characters as constituting both the diversity and the unity of Britain. Comedy was brilliantly fitted for such a process precisely because it mediates between the detachment embodied in laughter and the impetus towards social community, embodied in happy endings. ...
Georgian comedy thrived because it found ways to of articulating values and sentiments which could unite merchants and mariners, apprentices and aristocrats, box, pit and gallery. ...
Then as now, audiences came to a Georgian playhouse to enjoy themselves, to see friends, to be swept away by theatrical magic. But the political, social and emotional appeal of this 'enchanted ground', I have suggested in this talk, is underpinned in important ways by the values and ideals of citizenship. Indeed, debates about social cohesion flourished in this place in ways that modern politicians can only dream of.
Manufacturing Spectacle: The Georgian Playhouse and Urban Trade and Manufacturing
Susan Brown (University of Prince Edward Island, Canada)
The paper was part of a larger study investigating the inter-relations of commerce and culture on the eighteenth century London stage during a period when leisure, and the arts in general, were becoming increasingly commercialized.
Performing Working Boys: Cross Dressing and Child Labour on the early nineteenth Stage
David H Lawrence (Society for Theatre Research)
This paper focused on cross-dressed actresses in a group of plays dealing with child labour, mostly presented at minor theatres.
London in a Box: The Georgian Theatrical Imagination on the American Landscape
Dr. Odai Johnson (University of Washington)
The speaker discussed the way in which the theatre in colonial America developed and found encouragement by replicating, evoking, and remembering the Georgian Theatre culture in England.
The Research and Design for the Reconstruction of the Douglass Theater, Williamsburg, Virginia
Carl R. Lounsbury and Willie Graham (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
This paper presented an overview of the archaeological, documentary, and field research that led to the design for the reconstruction of a theater built in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1760 by an English touring company.
We Theatric Merchants: Marketing and Consuming Theater in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg
Elizabeth Cook (College of William and Mary)
The paper examines the marketing methods employed by eighteenth century managers in Williamsburg and how those methods translated into commercial successes.
Scheherazade on the English Stage: The Arabian Night's Entertainments and the Georgian Repertoire
Kristan Tetens (Independent Scholar, Michigan, USA)
The speaker considered how from the appearance of the first English translation of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the dazzling tales of Scheherazade have been mined for their dramatic potential.
The Provincial Theatre Orchestra and Music in the Georgian-era Playhouse
Vanessa L. Rogers (Wabash College)
This paper discussed the repertoire, size and makeup of the playhouse orchestra, as well as seating arrangements for the players and the leader, taking into account how these elements would have affected the practice of English theatrical music of Winston's era.
Rehearsing an Opera in Georgian London
Michael Burden (New College Oxford)
The paper considered the London opera seasons of 1754-55 and 1755-6 in which the difficulties between the opera promoter Vanneschi and the soprano Regina Mingotti became public in a spectacular manner.
Noverre, The Chinese Festival, and Dancing on the London Stage
Moira Goff (British Library)
This paper investigated dancing on the London stage during the 1750's. It considered two questions: Could Noverre have been influenced by theatrical dancing in London? Did he influence danced entertainments in London's theatres?
Barabara A Kachur (University of Missouri, St. Louis) was to have given a paper on 'The Eighteenth-Century Tragic Actor: A Performance Style' but sadly was indisposed.
Low Comic Performance in the Georgian Playhouse
Jim Davis (University of Warwick)
This paper explored low comic performance on the Georgian stage, discussing its prevalence during the period, key exponents, the critical discourse around low comedy that emerged in the writings of Boaden, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt and their contemporaries, and the role of visual and material cultures in enhancing the popularity of the low comedian.
Performance in the Georgian Theatre Royal
In the evening it was Conference's good fortune that a distinguished company of players (JennyAgutter, Helen Bradbury, Jonathan Elsom, Charles Kay, Trevor Martin, and Andrew Pepper) led by Timothy West was performing the afterpiece Lethe or Aesop in the Shades in the Georgian Theatre Royal The piece was written in 1740 by David Garrick at the age of twenty-three, two seasons prior to his debut as an actor. For those who had not previously seen a play of this period acted in an eighteenth-century playhouse this was an intriguing and unique experience.
Lethe has no formal dramatic structure and is made up of a series of scenes which enabled Garrick to subtract or add further scenes at will, thus enabling him to insert new comic characterisations satirizing eccentricity in the society of the day. Between the years 1740 and 1772 Garrick offered a number of versions of the play and he played several of the roles; it was not until 1756 that he introduced one of his most popular characterisations, Lord Chalkstone in which he is remembered in Zoffany's full-length portrait. (Lethe was preceded by Sam Butler & Co. An unvarnished revue of 18th century actors and audiences. )
Two Great Ladies: Nancy Crathorne and Sybil Rosenfeld
Lady Sylvia Crathorne (Chairman of the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond)
The second day began with a talk which consisted of a brief profile of the lives of these two women (Sybil Rosenfeld was a founder member of the STR) whose knowledge and dedication led to the successful restoration of the Georgian Theatre and its re-opening in 1963.
Setting out the 1788 Theatre
Iain Mackintosh (Convenor)
This summary lacks the all important diagrams on which the argument depends. If the paper is published it will contain those diagrams, prepared by Rebecca Vincent, architect with Theatre Projects with which I was associated for thirty-three years as Design Director and Chairman Emeritus.
The reader must grasp one key dimension and a piece of ancient geometry.
The dimension is the rod used since the middle ages as the measure of property. The rod is sixteen feet and six inches, or five and a half yards. Its origin does not concern us here but it has endured: a cricket pitch is sixty-six feet long, which is four rods. The director of the Tenement Museum in the lower east side of new York, an area which was the most densely populated place on earth towards the end of the 19th century, was puzzled why the blocks are 66 feet deep rather than the customary American 100 feet. I was able to inform him that this ancient area was set out by the English after the Dutch left: hence four rods. However even before we left the rod was abandoned in the Americas.
The geometry is the manner in which the square root of two is the key to setting out. Draw a square. Find the centre of that square. Draw a circle on that point the circumference of which passes through the four points of the square. The diameter of that circle measures as the length of a side of the square times the square root of two. (x 1.4142...) This becomes obvious if the process is repeated using the circle you have just drawn. Draw a square that contains the first circle and then draw a second circle which passes through the points of the second larger square. The diameter of the second larger circle is exactly twice the length of a side of the original square. And so on.
This way of setting out buildings was used in the ancient world and by the masons of the gothic cathedrals. It became known as 'sacred geometry'. The late John Orrell applied it to the Elizabethan playhouse. The Elizabethan philosophers had endowed it with mystery. I used it to identify 'positions of power' in modern theatres such as the Tricycle which is modelled on Richmond. And Mark Howell led the way in applying the basic concept of the square to Richmond.
Put the two together and some interesting facts emerge.
One rod is sixteen feet and six inches. This is precisely the width of the proscenium opening at Richmond.
One rod times the square root of two is twenty-three feet five inches. This is precisely the distance between the inner faces of the external walls of Richmond - the backs of the side boxes. And it does not stop at Richmond. The width of the proscenium opening at 'Wren's' Drury Lane, inherited first by Cibber and then by Garrick, seems to have been two rods: thirty-three feet.
The principles used by Butler for setting out Richmond can also be applied to Wisbech of 1793, in the Lincoln circuit. And it is surprising to note that the later and larger Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds of 1819 has a proscenium opening of twenty-three feet five inches, or one rod times the square root of two. At Richmond when setting out the auditorium and stage in 1788, in what was either an existing shell or one that used the foundations of an earlier building, Butler had to fit in an auditorium designed using 'sacred geometry' fore and aft on the centre line of the building. Lay two squares, each with sides of one rod, end to end. The sides which touch form the edge of the original 1788 stage - not that of the later shallower forestage which had in front an orchestra pit, the orchestra rail of which was on the line of the original stage edge. The precise position of these squares fore and aft is almost certainly driven by the radius point of the curve to the back wall of the centre boxes. This radius point is centre upstage, on the centre line, of the 23 feet 5 inches diameter circle drawn on the 16 feet six inches (one rod) square which forms the pit. The resulting back wall to the centre boxes leaves just enough room for the complex stair system of the original sole audience door in Friars Wynd. From this door one reached within a few feet access to all three parts of the house: to pit passage on audience right (the matching one on audience left is a necessary 1963 interpolation); the passage leading to the three doors into the boxes; and the sole stair, audience right, to the gallery.
This placing fore and aft on the centre line of the basic geometry can be checked by considering the depth of the stage. We have drawn two squares with sides of one rod each. The down stage edge of the stage square lies on the line of the original 1788 stage. The upstage edge lies on the line of the second of the stage portals just upstage of the grave trap. Add precisely not a third square but half of a one rod square. The upstage edge of this half one rod square is the setting out position for the backcloth which cannot go further upstage because of the two access stairs to the dressing rooms behind the stage.
Eulogy of Richard Southern
Martin White (University of Bristol)
Professor White set out how Richard Southern played a major role in the development of theatre as an academic discipline and in the application of scholarship to the practical world of theatre design and performance, and vice versa. His early art school training, his grounding in the professional theatre as an actor, stage manager and designer, and his fascination with the architecture and audiences of playhouses, ancient and modern, resulted in a career that included such diverse achievements as the restoration of the then neglected Georgian playhouses in Richmond and Kings Lynn, pioneering practice-based experiments in early staging and performance, co-founding the Society for Theatre Research and its journal, and ground breaking publications on theatre history. In 1951 he designed a pioneering flexible studio for the new Department of Drama at the University of Bristol, the first to be created in the UK (and later designed an equally inventive theatre, the Nuffield at the University of Southampton). From 1959 until his retirement ten years later he held a lectureship in theatre architecture and theatre design at Bristol, and he was awarded an honorary D.Litt by the university in 1956.
Introducing Mr. Winston: From Strolling Player to First Secretary of the Garrick Club
Marcus Risdell (The Garrick Club)
Marcus Risdell, the current Librarian and archivist at the Garrick Club, introduced Winston the man and examined his career within the context of late Georgian theatre, charting his progress from 'vagabond player' to 'gentleman.'
Fran Birch (Theatres Trust)
The speaker explained that research for the Winston project has been focused on mapping the Georgian theatres referenced in The Theatric Tourist and Winston's notes, the ultimate aim of which is to develop a means of tracing and mapping the circuits used by the touring companies at that time.
The Theatric Tourist Back On the Road
David Wilmore (Conference Convenor)
The speaker is about to embark upon a journey which will continue The Theatric Tourist project conceived by James Winston at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The research challenges to this project are significant as the material has to be re-assembled into one central location and then transcribed.
James Winston: Theatre Architect Manque
Jim Fowler (V & A Performance Collections)
This paper explored Winston's passion for theatre buildings beyond The Theatric Tourist with special reference to Drury Lane Theatre in the 1820's. It drew on a remarkable and little-known collection of Winston's now in the Victoria & Albert Museum's Theatre Collections.'
Decoration of the Theatre Royal Auditorium
Pauline Knox-Crichton (Independent Designer)
The Designer spoke about the redecoration of the Theatre Royal auditorium and based her talk on the approach to the design and execution of the commission.
From Rectangle to Circle: The Role of Provincial Theatres in the Evolution of French Playhouse Architecture, 1750-82
John Golder (University of New South Wales)
The paper explained that in 1750 none of the official theatres in regular operation in Paris was entirely adequate to the basic functions of a playhouse, as they all retained the traditional long, rectangular shape of the tennis court. Concentrating on provincial developments the paper showed how Paris was finally given a playhouse of which Voltaire might have been proud.
Macready's Acis and Galatea Revisited
Pieter van der Merwe (Society for Theatre Research)
This contribution brought together the surviving but incomplete designs of Clarkson Stanfield for Macready's 1842 Drury Lane staging of Handel's classical 'serenata', with lithographs based on them that appeared as illustrations to the published score, of which a copy has recently come to light.
John Philip Kemble and Elizabeth Inchbald: Their Artistic and Personal Relationship'
Susan Solomon (Society for Theatre Research)
The paper examined their lengthy artistic and personal relationship and their influence on each other's careers, concentrating on the years 1778-1780 when they were both members of Tate Wilkinson's company. In conclusion the paper considered the effect of their relationship on their later careers.
Theatrical Celebrity and the Commodification of the Actor
Heather McPherson (University of Alabama, Birmingham)
This paper discussed the rise of the actor and the development of celebrity during the second half of the eighteenth century and how it paralleled the rise of porcelain as a luxury commodity associated with refinement and sensation. Bridging the gap between spectator and stage, porcelain statuettes enhanced and reified the public image of stars such as Garrick and Siddons.
Germany's Early National Theatres
Anselm Heinrich (University of Glasgow)
The paper discussed how at the end of the 18th century various national theatres were founded in Germany. The speaker then considered to what extent these theatres actually corresponded to a) the ''national'' in their title and b) claims that theatre had an educational purpose.
Georgian Musical Entr'acte and Sing-along
Jeremy Barlow (The Broadside Band)
Charles Dibdin (1745-1814) is remembered today for just one song, 'Tom Bowling', yet he worked energetically and prodigiously in many fields; as an actor, singer, entertainer, manager, composer and writer. As a composer he fell out with Garrick at Drury Lane and Thomas Harris at Covent Garden, and after some disastrous attempts at theatrical management himself, took to the road as a one-man entertainer; he then brought his 'Table Entertainments' to London with some success. The Dibdin Singalong', after summarising Dibdin's life, focused on two pivotal periods in his career: his extraordinary 2,000 mile tour of England in 1787-8, and his difficult relationship with Garrick during the Shakespeare Jubilee at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769.
Theatre Lighting in the 17th and 18th Centuries'
Pavel Slako and Peter Perina (Foundation of the Baroque Theater in Český Krumlov)
The final session took the form of a practical lighting demonstration. The speakers utilised an assortment of candle recipes and methods to suggest how different qualities of light might have been achieved for dramatic purpose in the Georgian theatre.
Michael R. Booth (University of Victoria)
[Professor Booth said, in response to actual papers presented] ...there are still gaps. Living in the wilds of Greece as I do, and being out of touch with recent publications, I yet have the impression that little has been done on theatre criticism itself, in the newspapers and journals of the Georgian era, or on the relationship between critics and mangers. There is, unless I am mistaken in my unknowingness, no general account of changes in acting style, which would of course be related to changes in playwriting, theatre architecture and staging methods, as well as changes in the very conception of acting itself. Also essential is a reconsideration of the plays of our period, in the light of new thinking about the cultural and social contexts of theatre. Perhaps I am beginning to nitpick, always a fault in scholars of antique vintage. So much has changed in the writing of theatre history, so many new fields have been opened up and old ones looked at afresh, so much has been achieved. This conference and what has been said here is no mean measure of that achievement. I thank you all for allowing me the privilege of speaking to you.
On the last evening there was a Conference Dinner in the ballroom of the King's Head Hotel in Richmond's square. The hotel dates from 1711 and early in the nineteenth century it was described by J.M. Turner as 'The finest in Richmondshire'; Lizt gave a recital in the ballroom in 1841: the place has its own history! The traditional menu offered smoked trout, Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding, and apple pie with cream: all washed down with either a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Grigot. The Toasts were - The Queen proposed by Lord Crathorne, Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, The Society, and, lastly, Samuel Butler.
The 60th Anniversary Celebrations in 2008
The Society's committee in concert with the conference convenors has provided the membership with an exceptional year of celebration. The year got off to a fine start with the STR supported conference - John Rich and the Eighteenth Century Stage held at the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln Inn Fields - the site of Rich's theatre, where the first English musical 'The Beggar's Opera' was staged. The weekend concluded with a tour of the Garrick Club warmly hosted by members and STR members were able to view the club's exceptional collection 'of art works representing the history of the British Theatre'.
In February members travelled to The Hague to visit the Koninkliche Schouwburg (The Royal Theatre) where one of the lectures given was by Iain Mackintosh to learn about The 1911 competition for a design to replace the present theatre: architects Frank Matcham & Co. and Fellner and Helmer & Co. were finalists. In the event neither of the designs was implemented and so the eighteenth century theatre survived.
Later in June the STR held a Diamond Jubilee Weekend to celebrate the founding of the Society in June1948 at the Old Vic. On the first day a Study Day was held at the National Theatre Archive and on the following day the Society hosted a Garden Party at 'Garrick's Temple' at Hampton by the side of the River Thames. While celebratory champagne was sipped members enjoyed a charming concert entitled The Musick of London's Pleasure Gardens given by Earls' Court Baroque.
The Georgian Playhouse Conference at Richmond concluded the main celebrations of this anniversary year royally. The speakers offered a rich diversity of subject and scholarship: it was a unique event. Meeting in the most complete surviving Georgian theatre in England and, in addition to sharing a wealth of research, knowledge and experience, and witnessing a performance of a play by Garrick, provided a rare opportunity and great pleasure to all; the very theatre that in its early days unbelievably held audiences of more than 400: audiences who were able to witness performances by two of the greatest nineteenth century London actors, Edmund Kean (1819) and William Charles Macready (1821).
The current research into Georgian theatre between 1750 and 1850, as the conference revealed, is international, broad based, exciting and covers the many facets of theatre production and performance. With the example of Macready's Acis and Galetea and the descriptions of Clarkson Stanfield's scenery and lighting fresh in the imagination, it is sobering to remember that theatre practitioners at all levels in the Georgian period achieved standards of production and presentation, without the assistance of electricity and computers, that engaged and often amazed their contemporaries. The ingredients - the art and craft of staging and performance, imagination and industry and plenty of muscle; a stage first lit by candle, oil and later by gas: in tandem with a wide assortment of making skills; all combining with companies of actors, singers, dancers and musicians, recruited by busy actor-managers ever seeking to attract and please their audiences, and the authorities, with a changing repertoire of plays, old and new, in both provincial and London theatres. The membership can look forward to further updates and news relating to a number of on-going projects; progress reports on the reconstruction of the Douglass theatre planned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in America; following the publication of The Theatric Tourist, the continuation of the Theatric Tourist project conceived by James Winston, as the notebooks, sketches, and watercolours are located and perhaps one day re-assembled in one central location: this project should also aid in the continued identification of other surviving Georgian theatres. In due course, the publication of papers just given at Richmond would be warmly welcomed.
The Society should be congratulated on a year of rich endeavour and its continued encouragement of theatre research. The STR in tandem with the convenors is to be warmly congratulated on this successful anniversary year. It would be pleasant to anticipate that a similar conference might be planned for the not too distant future to build on the success of THE GEORGIAN PLAYHOUSE and its Continental Counterparts 1750 -1850.
A report of a Jeremy Barlow (& David Timson) performance (at the Art Workers Guild, Dec 2007)
2008 John Rich Conference report
Jubilee Garden Party report
Koninkliche Schouwburg trip report
General Events Index
6th November 2008