< Theatre Notebook

Vol. 68, No. 1

2014

Articles

  1. Springthorpe: Waxworks, Views, Conceerts, Marionettes

    Martin MacGilp

    Waxwork exhibitions have been around since the eighteenth century (Warner 18), and although waxworks are generally “static” exhibitions, I would suggest that there is more than a little of the theatrical about them. the public moves around the rooms of a waxwork exhibition looking at the various representations of monarchs, politicians and criminals ­ this surely fits into a view of “theatre”, as the public must suspend their disbelief to consider the representations before them. Great skill goes into the creation of lifelike figures with convincing eyes and veins, and the waxwork must look as if it is about to breathe. Yet in the manner of being viewed, such a waxwork is not entirely akin to the work of the portrait sculptor, it is much nearer to the marionette figures – minus the caricaturing – of the fairground booths. Even the costume requires authenticity, just as on the stage. all of this requires a certain input from the public: a suspension of disbelief and a willingness to engage in the life story or life events of the characters being represented. I would suggest this makes the waxwork exhibition entirely different to a display of sculpture or paintings in a gallery. Some waxworks had a certain degree of movement, although this would have been considerably less than a marionette or other puppet figure is capable of. Waxworks were often to be found in the fairground, along with penny theatres and puppet show-booths. Although devoid of any dramatic performance as such, the effect on the public must have been theatrical, as they considered the lives of the kings or queens, or the horrific actions of the murderer whose wax representation stood before them. Some writers may have a broadly similar viewpoint: Pamela Pilbeam observes that waxworks are a form of theatre (Pilbeam 233), and in a comparison between waxworks and playing with dolls, Marina Warner states that “similar powers of projection invest the stubborn, inanimate, horrible thing with life, with soul” (Warner 55).

  2. William Poel's production of Samuel Rowley's When You See Me, You Know Me

    Joanna Howe

    On Sunday 10 July 1927, Samuel Rowley’s chronicle history play When You See Me, You Know Me was revived at the Holborn Empire in London under the auspices of William Poel’s Elizabethan Stage Circle. First performed by Prince Henry’s Men at the Fortune Theatre in 1604, Rowley’s When You See Meboldly dramatized key events in the reign of King Henry VIII only months after the death of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, in March 1603. In particular, the play focuses on the birth and upbringing of the young Prince Edward, aspects of his father’s foreign policy, and the religious upheaval that has come to characterize the final period of King Henry’s reign. these more serious episodes in the play are complemented by comic passages in which the king’s fool, Will Summers, takes a leading role, challenging members of the royal court to engage in contests of witty rhyming banter. other humorous episodes include the king’s disguised night-walk into London and the ensuing brawl between King Henry and notorious villain Black Will, which results in the king’s arrest. Both men are sent to the Counter prison, where King Henry revels in his own deceptive abilities. here, as elsewhere in the play, the veracity of the play’s title – When You See Me, You Know Me – is called comically into question.

  3. Joan Littlewood And The De-Mystification Of Acting

    Nicholas Clark

    Creating scenery for the operas of Benjamin Britten (1913-76) was both a testing and rewarding occupation. One of the photographs held in the archive of the Britten-Pears Foundation reveals the composer and producer Eric Crozier in 1945 scrutinizing one of four set models by the artist Kenneth Green (1905-86) for the first production of Peter Grimes. This telling image attests to Britten’s interest in the preliminary detail of, and frequently strong opinion on, the design of his stage work. John Piper (1903-92), who designed Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in 1946 and continued to work with him until 1973, admitted that he was often called upon to provide an idea of how a series of scenes might look to create some visual stimulus before the composer put pencil to paper (qtd. in Folio). Piper added that Britten’s ideas about design “were precise and sound and positive in the way he saw them. they were often extremely practical too, on points such as . . . the exact placing of a piece of scenery with acoustics in mind” (herbert 6).

BOOK REVIEWS

Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century

Peter Sabor and Fiona Ritchie (eds.)

A Timber Idol: Mr Punch in Scotland

Martin MacGilp

Theatres of Opposition: Empire, Revolution and Richard Brinsley Sheridan

David Francis Taylor

Springthorpe: Waxworks, Views, Conceerts, Marionettes –§– The Simpson Players of Jacobean Yorkshire and the Professional Stage –§– Joan Littlewood And The De-Mystification Of Acting.

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