< Theatre Notebook

Vol. 68, No. 3

2014

Articles

  1. Hocus Pocus Junior: further confirmation of its author

    Philip Butterworth

    In 2005 Cambridge University Press published my work Magic on the Early English Stage. In this book I presented evidence of the authorship of a volume entitled Hocvs Pocvs Ivnior (1634). Previously, the author of thisvolume had not been known. A number of individuals within the magic fraternity were sceptical of this asserted identification and, no doubt, would have preferred it if the mystery author had remained unknown. However, the evidence that I presented was clear and unequivocal. Even so, this evidence consisted of only one item and was in need of some further corroborative support to further establish the authorship of Hocvs Pocvs Ivnior.

    “Hocus Pocus” was also the pseudonym of a juggler in the early seventeenth century who occupied the role of the King’s Juggler or, as it was known in the sixteenth century and earlier, as the “Joculatori domini Regis [the lord king’s juggler]” (Butterworth, 9-11, 192).1 He was the juggler to James I. As a juggler, Hocus Pocus’ skill did not reside in his ability to throw up objects from one hand to the other in a continuous rhythmical sequence without dropping them to the floor. This ability is not one that defined the task of jugglers of this period, or earlier. The “juggler” was what we today refer to as the “conjuror” involved in legerdemain, sleight of hand or prestigiation.

  2. Samuel Sandford and Colley Cibber: two players' acting techniques and the rise and fall of restoration villain tragedy on the London stage from the 1670s to the 1730s

    Riki Miyoshi

    In late December in London 1699, the twenty-eight-year-old comic actor, Colley Cibber, had made a laughing-stock of himself. On the Drury Lane stage the artificially hunch-backed Cibber had disastrously performed the title role in his own adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The actor who had recently and triumphantly typecast himself as a player of farcical, flamboyant fops could not convincingly perform the part of the villain. This may have been the occasion on which the disgruntled audience, who had had enough of Cibber’s appalling performance, started mercilessly hurling “Oranges, Apples, Turnips [at Cibber’s head] from the Galleries, and among the rest of their Artillery a Stone” (Laureat47). An observer of the debacle commented that Cibber, helplessly paralysed with fear, lapsed into “a sudden Tremor” on stage, which prevented him from “displaying the Heroic Actions of Richard the Third that Night” (Laureat 47). Cibber recollected years later that the play “did not raise me Five Pounds on the Third Day” (Ximena xviii). The curtain fell on the dismal production and it remained un-revived for most of the following decade. However, Cibber’s laughable performance as a villain had a more serious and significant consequence than the sad fate of his ego. It affected the fate of an entire Restoration genre.

  3. "The Stage is Hung with Blacke": on the use of black curtains for tragedies in the early modern period

    Mariko Ichikawa

    The literature of the early modern period contains many references to the use of black curtains for tragedies. In Shakespeare’s narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece, one stanza consists of Lucrece delivering a series of rebukes against “comfort-killing night” (Q1 [1594], F3r), among which we find the phrase “Blacke stage for tragedies” (F3r). In this glancing reference Shakespeare is no doubt drawing on his own experience and knowledge of current theatrical practice. The phrase certainly seems to refer to the use of curtains in creating an effect of blackness on the Elizabethan stage, and the fact that it is both brief and oblique may be the most noteworthy thing about it: this short phrase is all that was needed to enable the reader of the poem instantly to recognise what would have been a common practice.

BOOK REVIEWS

Modern British Playwriting: the 1950s

David Pattie

Modern British Playwriting: the 1960s

Steve Nicholson

Britain Had Talent: A History of British Variety Theatre

Oliver Double

My Old Man: A Personal History of Music Hall

John Major

Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Twentieth-Century Actress

Helen Grime

The Collected Letters of Ellen Terry, Volume 5: 1905-13

Katherine Cockin (ed.)

Scottish Theatre: Diversity, Language, Continuity

Ian Brown

Hocus Pocus Junior: further confirmation of its author –§– Samuel Sandford and Colley Cibber: two players’ acting techniques and the rise and fall of restoration villain tragedy on the London stage from the 1670s to the 1730s –§– “The Stage is Hung with Blacke”: on the use of black curtains for tragedies in the early modern period.

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