Essays on Popular Performers
Edited by Martin Banham and Jane Milling
Dangerous, outrageous, comic and committed, the extraordinary performers collected here have altered the history of popular entertainment in America and Europe. Some have rarely had their story told, others are familiar figures. The essays explore what made these performers extraordinary; how they were trained, how they practised their art, how they were received, celebrated, satirised and mythologised. From the explosive acting of Richard Burbage to the dislocating quirkiness of Peter Lorre, from the dangerous satire of commedia dell'arte troupes in Russia to the bittersweet collaboration of Morecambe and Wise, this volume explores what made these actors popular. Each contributor has taken care to set the performer and their work in cultural context, so that the collection as a whole charts the changing relationship between acting and popular culture over the last four hundred years.
Part One examines seventeenth and eighteenth century performers, as they built a sense of the excitement and possibility of theatre with audiences in Britain and Europe. The idea of acting, its art and popular practice was being formed during this period. Part Two explores nineteenth-century popular performers who became cultural icons and developed popular performance that contributed to the regeneration of national identity. Part Three looks at twentieth-century performers whose acting continued to reach popular audiences in remarkable ways, across national boundaries, as the acting industry underwent transformation in the face of technological change
This is a unique collection of essays on performers such as Richard Burbage, Sarah Siddons, Peter Lorre, George Formby, Laurel and Hardy, Morecombe and Wise. It provides an outstanding selection of contributors: Richard Boon, Colin Chambers, Chris Dymkowski, Ger Fitzgibbon, Viv Gardner, Baz Kershaw, Alexander Leggatt, Chris McCullough, Jan McDonald, Joel Schechter, Laurence Senelick, Martin White, Don Wilmeth
Martin Banham, Richard Boon, Colin Chambers, Christopher Dymkowski, Ger Fitzgibbon, Viv Gardner, Baz Kershaw, Alexander Leggatt, Christopher McCullough, Jan McDonald, Jane Milling, Joel Schechter, Laurence Senelick, Maggie Steed, Martin White and Don B. Wilmeth
Part I: The idea of acting extraordinary actors of the 17th and 18th century:
Introduction, Martin Banham, Richard Burbage, Alexander Leggatt
Commedia dell'arte in Russia - Popular Satiric Perfomers in the 18th Century, Laurence Senelick
Thomas Betterton - The Art of Playing, Jane Milling
PART II: The celebrated actor as cultural icon - extraordinary actors of the 19th century:
Introduction, Chris McCullough
British Invasions on the American Stage, Don Wilmeth
Acting and the Austere Joys of Motherhood - Sarah Siddons Performs Maternity, Jan McDonald
The Brothers Fay - Irish Acting and the Origins of the Abbey Theatre, Ger Fitzgibbon
Gertie Millar: Celebrity and Musical Comedy, Viv Gardner
PART III: Acting for popular audiences, the mass and the local extraordinary actors of the 20th century
Introduction, Jane Milling
Lena Ashwell and the Once A-Week Players - Popular Performers in London, Chris Dymkowski
Peter Lorre - A Clash of European and US Acting Styles, Chris McCullough
George Formby and the Northern Sublime, Baz Kershaw
Leo Fuchs - Yiddish Vaudevillian, Joel Schechter; Laurel and Hardy and Morecambe and Wise - Comedy Double Acts, Richard Boon
Playing on the Front Foot - Actors and Audience in British Popular Theatre 1970-1990, Colin Chambers and Maggie Steed
Mark Rylance - Popular acting at the Globe Theatre, Martin White.
‘…this valuable, immensely entertaining and handsomely-produced volume of essays and interviews, …’ (Theatre Notebook, Volume 60, Number 1. 2006)
Jane Milling is Lecturer in Drama, University of Exeter. She is co-author, with Graham Ley, of Modern Theories of Performance: From Stanislavski to Boal (Palgrave, 2001) and co-editor, with Peter Thomson, of Volume One of The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Origins to 1660 (CUP, 2003).
Martin Banham is Emeritus Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies, University of Leeds. He is editor of The Cambridge Guide to Theatre and co-editor of the journal African Theatre.