< Theatre Notebook

Vol. 67, No. 2

2013

Articles

  1. Before Ibsen: The Early Stage Career of Janet Achurch, 1883-89

    Bernard Ince

    An actress of Janet Achurch’s status warrants little introduction. Her innovative interpretation as Nora Helmer in the first unexpurgated British production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Novelty Theatre on 7 June 1889 brought her instant fame.2 Indeed, such was the impact of A Doll’s House on the course of British theatrical history that it is easy to forget that Achurch had a theatrical past before she became famous as Nora. This metaphorical severance from her formative years has been so overwhelming that her pre-Ibsen period has almost escaped attention. The paucity of information is evident in a plethora of readily available biographical summaries on Achurch that offer little of this early period.3 The recovery of this undocumented past has entailed a study of Achurch’s six-year apprenticeship from 1883, when she first came to the stage, up to the early notices for A Doll’s House in 1889. During this period, Achurch acted under well-known managements, notably those of Genevieve Ward, Sarah Thorne, F. R. Benson, and Herbert Beerbohm Tree. On this journey of recuperation are revealed not only the predictable peaks and troughs in fortune but also the relative strengths and weaknesses of Achurch’s developing talent, and the emergence of performance traits and artistic style that prefigured the performer she became.

  2. The People's Impresario: Roland Muldoon at the Hackney Empire

    Bill McDonnell

    On 3 November 1986, Roland Muldoon and members of socialist theatre company Cartoon Archetypical Slogan Theatre (CAST) took over stewardship of London’s Hackney Empire. The company’s interest in the building, which was owned by Mecca Bingo, had begun the year before, when the Arts Council announced that it would be cutting CAST’s funding. An agreement was negotiated whereby the new owners would purchase the building for £150,000, with £50,000 to be paid in May 1988, and the balance by February 1989. The new management set itself three aims:

    • To create a new type of popular Variety theatre aiming at Hackney and London-wide audiences and adjacent counties.
    • To bring in audiences of all ages and all races, whilst identifying special targeted shows for the local Turkish, Irish, Black and Asian audiences.
    • To promote the newly emerging or changing art forms such as dance, music etc as well as our special interest New Variety: to link up with the past and promote traditional variety (Hackney Empire Archive, hereafter HEA, “Press Release”)

    The aims constituted a natural progression for the company, which since 1981 had pioneered what became known as New Variety, first at the Queen’s Head in Brixton (itself an old music hall venue) and later at ten venues across the capital.

BOOK REVIEWS

British South Asian Theatres: A Documented History

Graham Ley and Sarah Dadswell (eds.)

Critical Essays on British South Asian Theatre

Graham Ley and Sarah Dadswell (eds.)

A Theatre for all Seasons: The History of the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Michael Hasted

Liverpool Playhouse: A Theatre and its City

Ros Merkin (ed.)

Bram Stoker and the Stage: Reviews, Reminiscences, Essays and Fiction

Catherine Wynne (ed.)

The Collected Letters of Ellen Terry, Volume Three, 1894-1898

Katharine Cockin (ed.)

Before Ibsen: The Early Stage Career of Janet Achurch, 1883-89 –§– The People’s Impresario: Roland Muldoon at the Hackney Empire.

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