< Theatre Notebook

Vol. 69, No. 1

2015

Articles

  1. Bararbas's Fall

    Mark Hutchings

    Early modern play-texts present numerous puzzles for scholars interested in ascertaining how plays were (or may have been) staged. the principal evidence of course for a notional “reconstruction” of practices is the apparatus of stage directions, augmented by indications in the dialogue. in conjunction a joining-of-the-dots is often possible, at least in broad-brush terms. But as is well known, the problem is that stage directions tend to be incomplete, imprecise, inaccurate ­ or missing altogether; more significantly, even when present they offer only slight and indirect evidence of actual stagecraft. Some stage directions are rather more “literary” than “theatrical” in provenance, and in any case to the extent that they do serve the reader (early modern or modern) they cannot be regarded as providing a record of stage practice. After all, words can be no more than imperfect substitutes for (and of another order from) the things they represent. For the most part directions serve as a guide that provides the basis for reasonable interpretation informed by our knowledge of theatre architecture, technology, and comparable play-situations, rather than concrete evidence of actual practice. Quite how some stage business was carried out remains uncertain, leaving the scholar little option but to hypothesize solutions. One such conundrum arises in christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta. the scenario in question is hardly an obscure one, but it has not been examined in detail, even by modern editors. the purpose of this essay is to explore what sense might be made of the surviving textual evidence, in combination with our knowledge of theatre architecture and playmaking culture in the late sixteenth century.

  2. Shelley's Unsung Muse: Elisa O'Neill and the Inspiration Behind The Cenci

    James Armstrong

    Scholars have long known that the nineteenth-century actress eliza O’neill was a significant factor in percy Shelley’s decision to compose his 1819 tragedy The Cenci as a performable, stage-worthy drama. Shelley’s previous attempt at writing a play, Prometheus Unbound, was a closet drama that defied any attempt at staging. within months after composing the bulk of that piece, however, Shelley had penned a completely different work. Unlike Prometheus UnboundThe Cenci has been acted with great success on numerous occasions. it has attracted theatre artists as diverse as Aurélien Lugné-poë, karel Capek, and Antonin Artaud (curran 277). what scholars have been slow to recognize is exactly how performances by a single irish actress convinced Shelley to put aside closet drama and attempt a work so different from his previous writing. How was it that O’neill came to have such an impact on a major writer like Shelley? Mary Shelley wrote in her note on The Cenci that her late husband wished to have the tragedy acted. though percy Shelley was “easily disgusted” by the acting of his day, the Shelleys had seen O’neill “several times” while preparing for their departure to italy (336). According to Mary Shelley, O’neill was often in her husband’s thoughts as he wrote The Cenci, and he wanted O’neill to act the leading role of Beatrice. playwrights commonly create roles with specific performers in mind, even if those performers never come to act the roles they inspire. As Marvin carlson notes in his book The Haunted Stage, all audiences are continually “ghosting” past performances and past performers onto the plays that they watch, seeing both the current….

  3. Henry Marshall's Gag Book: Pantomime Routines for Actors in Twentieth Century Repertory Theatre

    Chris Abbott

    Partridge in a Pear Tree parody. Row of comics and others behind washing machines. The first day of Christmas my true love sent to me etc. The first day of Christmas I saw on TV . . . so many washing machines, so many drip drip shirts (Dame washing them) two rubber gloves, and a clock that makes the tea. Include one packet of Daz. Each are produced as mentioned. Eventually porter comes on with trolley of packets. (Get actual number to write parody from)
    (Marshall 1950s routine in Abbott, Panto 306)

    Sevenoaks’s version of the ’12 Days of Christmas’ which used Chinese takeaway menu items instead of the now usual ‘bra that was made to hold three’ and ‘five toilet rolls’, was also a welcome deviation…
    (Sladen)

    The first extract above is from a gag book started in the early 1940s by prolific pantomime author Henry Marshall and now to be found in the Bristol theatre collection. the second extract is from an online pantomime review in 2013 by Simon Sladen, British Theatre Guide pantomime critic. this paper will seek to examine Marshall’s gag book in order to examine some of the persisting tropes of pantomime performance, as well as considering some of the more specific features of mid-twentieth century repertory theatre pantomime as written by Marshall for Salisbury playhouse for thirty-one years from 1955 to 1985. the distinctive feature of this book of gags and routines is that it was written for inexperienced performers at the beginning of their careers, and therefore contains a level of detail not often found in similar collections.

BOOK REVIEWS

The Theatre of David Grieg

Clare Wallace

A Jacobean Company and its Playhouse: The Queen's Servants at the Red Bull Theatre (c.1605-1619)

Eva Griffith

Mapping Irish Theatre: Theories of Space and Place

Chris Morash and Shaun Richards

The Lively Arts of the London Stage, 1675-1725

Kathryn Lowerre (ed.)

The Theatre of Sean O'Casey

James Moran

The Sarah Siddons Audio Files: Romanticism and the Lost Voice

Judith Pascoe

Bararbas’s Fall –§– Shelley’s Unsung Muse: Elisa O’Neill and the Inspiration Behind The Cenci –§– Henry Marshall’s Gag Book: Pantomime Routines for Actors in Twentieth Century Repertory Theatre.

OBITUARIES

Terence Rees
Katherine Worth

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