< Theatre Notebook
Vol. 70, No. 3
THE CHALLENGE OF USING THEATRE AS SOCIAL AND POLITICAL INTERVENTION IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY SHEFFIELD: JOSEPH FOX'S THE UNION WHEEL
by HILARY WILSON“The Stage might be the rectifier of abuses”.“The abominations of trade unionism may be legitimate,
but are not very attractive subjects for dramatic treatment”.
The stage in nineteenth-century Sheffield was a contested space: drama was not only used to document current events, but also served as a provocative advocate for a cause or a course of action. This is demonstrated in the work of a forgotten playwright, Joseph Fox (1833-1906), and particularly in one of his plays, The Union Wheel (1870), which caused a significant amount of controversy when it had its premiere production. In The Union Wheel Fox depicted the violent industrial conflicts taking place in Sheffield which had become known as “the Outrages”, as did his contemporary Charles Reade (1814-84), who wrote Put Yourself in His Place, first as a novel, followed very quickly by a stage adaptation (prefixed by the phrase Free Labour), which was also produced in 1870. Both playwrights had social and political agendas which they attempted to promote through their dramas.
THE LICENSING OF THE BIRMINGHAM MUSIC HALLS
by BARRIE FRANCIS
By the early 1860s Birmingham was firmly established in the vanguard of towns lobbying the Home Secretary for magistrates to be empowered to grant or refuse licence applications for the performing of music or dancing in public houses, and to treat any publican conducting such activities in his establishment who was not in possession of a valid music licence as being in breach of the law. Nationally, the temperance movement had gained in strength and influence following the formation in 1853 of the United Kingdom Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic in All Intoxicating Liquors. The Alliance sought to further its cause not through conversion or persuasion of the wayward, but by direct state intervention. Birmingham, with its longstanding temperance tradition, was well placed to take the initiative, and had the enthusiastic support of the rising star in the local political firmament, Joseph Chamberlain.
'THE PLAY ALL LONDON IS DISCUSSING': THE GREAT SUCCESS OF GUY DU MAURIER'S AN ENGLISHMAN'S HOME, 1909
by HARRY WOOD
Guy du Maurier’s play An Englishman’s Home, first performed in January 1909 at Wyndham’s Theatre in London, has long been the subject of scholarly interest, if not concerted attention. Written by the lesser-known sibling of the famous du Maurier family, the production, in the words of The Times, “floated to notoriety on a wave of politics” (“Coming Theatrical Season”). By the end of its initial run at Wyndham’s in mid-June the play had been performed 161 times and watched by nearly 200,000 people (“Notes”). Theatre attendees included politicians and ministers, army officers and novelists, and even King Edward VII himself. Outside of the capital, touring production companies helped du Maurier’s creation achieve national and international acclaim, generating unprecedented levels of press coverage and political controversy along the way. A play about invasion that spoke to contemporary anxieties over Britain’s military strength and physical health, its popularity owed much to the introspective concerns that have come to define pre-1914 Britain (Powell; Trumble and Rager 2-9).
British Theatre and the Great War, 1914-1919: New Perspectives
Andrew Maunder (ed.)
Taking on the Empire: How We Saved the Hackney Empire
The Challenage of Using Theatre as Social and Political Intervention in Nineteenth-Century Sheffield: Joseph Fox’s The Union Wheel –§– The Licensing of the Birmingham Music Halls –§– ‘The Play all London is Discussing’: The Great Success of Guy du Maurier’s An Englishman’s Home, 1909.