< Theatre Notebook

Vol. 65, No. 1

2011

Articles

  1. An Eighteenth-century Capital Of Culture? Conflict & Controversy in Liverpool's Pursuit of a Theatre Royal 

    Alexandra Foy

    The Theatre Royal Liverpool opened in the newly built Williamson Square on 5th June 1772 to great acclaim. The distinguished playwright and manager, George Colman (the elder) had written a proud and spirited prologue to mark the occasion and Liverpool’s economic prosperity was thriving. A Royal Patent appeared to be, so to speak, the cherry on the top of the cake that was a profitable period for the town. Yet the national reaction to the town’s endeavours to achieve such an honour and the spirited debate that ensued did not echo the proud, upbeat sentiments of Liverpool’s residents. Just over two hundred years later Liverpool found itself again at the centre of a heated national debate following the 2003 announcement of the town’s successful bid to be the European Capital of Culture for 2008. For the most part the city and its residents were immensely proud, recognising this international award as the boost they had needed not only to improve its appearance, tourism and employment opportunities, but also to renew a feeling of self-confidence and regional worth that had been lost during the city’s decline in the late twentieth century. But the success of Liverpool over five other British hopefuls (namely Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle- Gateshead and Oxford) also sparked a more negative series of queries and concerns ­ exactly what culture did this stereotypically rough and dreary northern port have?

  2. The Corsican Trap: Its Mechanism & Reception

    Geraint D'Arcy

    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.

  3. A Prompt Copy of William Dimond's The Broken Sword: Nineteenth-century Melodrama in England and America

    Jonathan Hicks

    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.

  4. "Hands Off Proud Stranger": Shakespeare Versus Multiple Authorship in Performance

    Varsha Panjwani

    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

Bouffonnerie Musicale: The Story of H. B. Farnie, Author, Journalist, Golfer, Librettist, Adapter, and Song Writer (1836-1889)(extracts only)

Keith Drummond Sharp

Thomas Betterton: The Greatest Actor of the Restoration Stage (extracts only)

David Roberts

Reimagining Shakespeare's Playhouse; Early Modern Staging Conventions in the Twentieth Century (extracts only)

Joe Falocco

The Collected Letters of Ellen Terry, Volume Two, 1889-1893

Katharine Cockin (ed) (extracts only)

Victorian Pantomime: A Collection of Critical Essays (extracts only)

im Davis (ed)

An 18thC Capital Of Culture? Conflict & Controversy in Liverpool’s Pursuit of a Theatre Royal –§– The Corsican Trap: Its Mechanism & Reception –§– A Prompt Copy of William Dimond’s The Broken Sword –§– “Hands Off Proud Stranger”: Shakespeare Versus Multiple Authorship in Performance.

BRIEFLY NOTED

The Routledge Companion to Directors’ Shakespeare
John Russell Brown (ed.)

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Out of Print: email theatrenotebook@str.org.uk to enquire about photocopies.