THE CORSICAN TRAP: ITS MECHANISM AND RECEPTION
In 1852, Charles Kean commissioned Dion Boucicault to adapt Les Frères Corses for the English stage. Boucicault took the 1850 Parisian version, adapted it into The Corsican Brothers and under the direction of Charles Kean, who also played both leads, the play opened on 24 February at Kean's Princess's Theatre (Era 29 February 1852).
The play is a revenge tale about twin brothers who share a psychic link. Split into three acts, the first two acts take place chronologically at the same time and lead to the one brother's death and his ghostly appearance to the other. The third act leads to the surviving brother's revenge. As a melodrama, the time discrepancy in the play is interesting as is the premise of the ghosts and the way the action plays out. The play should have been no better received than its French counterpart, but due to the staging of Kean's production, it was to become immensely popular.
One month after opening at the Princess, The Corsican Brothers was running in five other London Houses (Era 21 March 1852), by April it had reached the Adelphi in Edinburgh (Era 4 April 1852) and the next week it opened in the Queen's Royal Theatre in Dublin. In Kean's eight year tenancy at the Princess, it was performed two hundred and thirty six times.
A PROMPT COPY OF WILLIAM DIMOND'S THE BROKEN SWORD: A NINETEENTH-CENTURY MELODRAMA IN ENGLAND AND AMERICA
The place of Birmingham in the history of nineteenth-century English theatre is assured: the New Street venue was well-established by the late eighteenth century, obtained a royal patent in 1807, and kept its doors open until demolition in 1902. As a major provincial theatre it received the best London talent and served as a training ground for aspiring performers and managers. One of the most important resources of the New Street venue was its dramatic library, which is extremely rare among English theatres in surviving the break-up of the stock companies. The library owes its preservation to Philip Rodway, the manager of the new Birmingham "Royal" from its opening in 1904 until his death in 1932. The collection then passed to a close friend of Rodway's, Raymond Crompton Rhodes, the theatre critic for the Birmingham Post. Crompton Rhodes did little more than put the printed pieces into order before his death in 1935 at which point the collection was purchased from his widow by the Birmingham Library, where it remains almost intact to this day.
I say "almost" because the subject of this article a prompt copy of The Broken Sword by William Dimond (c.17841837?) is one of the few items that got away.2 Its disappearance was probably down to one Mrs Dornton who, with her husband Charles, managed the old "Royal" from Simpson's retirement in 1891 until its reconstruction at the turn of the century.
"HANDS OFF PROUD STRANGER": SHAKESPEARE VERSUS MULTIPLE AUTHORSHIP IN PERFORMANCE
In 2005, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) launched the Gunpowder season. The idea was to present plays that were rarely revived but were "dynamite" in their own day. One of the productions was the multiple author play, Thomas More. This unique play exists in manuscript and is believed to have been jointly authored by Anthony Munday, Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, possibly Thomas Heywood, and William Shakespeare. These attributions have not gone unchallenged. Scholars have especially debated the Shakespeare authorship with experts both for and against the ascription. For the purpose of this article, it does not matter whether the attribution of a part of this play to Shakespeare is correct. Rather, the paper is concerned with the aftermath of such an identification, that is, what happens to a performance once Shakespeare is pitted against (or is imagined as working with) other authors in writing a play? It also does not matter whether Shakespeare truly had a hand in the entire play or only in a speech. What is significant is that Gregory Doran, the mastermind behind the Gunpowder season, believed that Thomas More's riot-subduing speech (see below) is "universally credited to Shakespeare" (xii) and Ann Slater gave the same verdict in the programme of the production when she singled out this speech and its effect on the listeners as a "scene Shakespeare unquestionably added to the play". This article discusses what happens to the production of a jointly authored play when the creative team identifies one part of it as Shakespeare's.
BOOK REVIEWS (extracts only)
Bouffonnerie Musicale: The Story of H. B. Farnie, Author, Journalist, Golfer, Librettist, Adapter, and Song Writer (1836-1889)
Keith Drummond Sharp
According to Bernard Shaw "The late H. B. Farnie was for an age, but not for all time". Nevertheless Farnie certainly deserves better than the oblivion in which he has languished for so long, but from which Keith Drummond Sharp has now rescued him. As the title of the book indicates Farnie was a man of many parts, indeed more than are listed here if the recently-published sobriquet, "Henry Broughton Farnie, the Cupar adulterer", is to be believed as evidently it should.
Thomas Betterton: The Greatest Actor of the Restoration Stage
This lively and engaging biography of Betterton offers a refreshing insight into the actor's life and times. Roberts's painstaking work in the Longleat archive adds to Judith Milhous's work on Betterton as manager and performer, by drawing on his relationship to his cultural milieu and his activities off- stage and away from the professional London theatre.
Reimagining Shakespeare's Playhouse; Early Modern Staging Conventions in the Twentieth Century
This is an important synoptic study drawing on a very extensive range of modern scholarship to evaluate the nature of some of the more significant attempts to reproduce some version of contemporary understandings of the nature of Renaissance stage conditions. As Falocco tackles William Poel, Harley Granville Barker, Nugent Monck, Tyrone Guthrie and Sam Wanamaker and "The New Globe", his account of the various efforts and their ideological nuances is highly informative and well considered.
The Collected Letters of Ellen Terry, Volume Two, 1889-1893
Katharine Cockin (ed)
This is the second of twelve projected volumes of Katharine Cockin's edition of Ellen Terry's letters. (A review of the first appeared in Theatre Notebook 64/2  113-15.) We join Terry as the run of Macbeth at the Lyceum is under way, and in several letters she refers to sitting (standing?) for John Singer Sargent's famous painting of her as Lady Macbeth.
Victorian Pantomime: A Collection of Critical Essays
im Davis (ed)
Victorian pantomime played a major role in the artistic and social economy of the theatre, functioning as a "signature" presentation by the particular theatres, a focus of local and regional pride, a vehicle for comment on recent and current events and - like the Christmas shows put on by repertory theatres today - if all went well a banker for the rest of the season.
The Routledge Companion to Directors' Shakespeare
John Russell Brown (ed.)
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1st February 2012