Open Access (free)
Female theatre workers and professional practice

Stage women, 1900–50 explores the many ways in which women conceptualised, constructed and participated in networks of professional practice in the theatre and performance industries between 1900 and 1950. A timely volume full of original research, the book explores women’s complex negotiations of their agency over both their labour and public representation, and their use of personal and professional networks to sustain their careers. Including a series of case studies that explore a range of well-known and lesser-known women working in theatre, film and popular performance of the period. The volume is divided into two connected parts. ‘Female theatre workers in the social and theatrical realm’ looks at the relationship between women’s work – on- and offstage – and autobiography, activism, technique, touring, education and the law. Part II, ‘Women and popular performance’, focuses on the careers of individual artists, once household names, including Lily Brayton, Ellen Terry, radio star Mabel Constanduros, and Oscar-winning film star Margaret Rutherford. Overall, the book provides new and vibrant cultural histories of women’s work in the theatre and performance industries of the period.

Working memories
Author: David Calder

Street theatre and the production of postindustrial space explores how street theatre transforms industrial space into postindustrial space. Deindustrializing communities have increasingly turned to cultural projects to commemorate industrial heritage while simultaneously generating surplus value and jobs in a changing economy. Through analysis of French street theatre companies working out of converted industrial sites, this book reveals how theatre and performance more generally participate in and make historical sense of ongoing urban and economic change. The book argues, firstly, that deindustrialization and redevelopment rely on the spatial and temporal logics of theatre and performance. Redevelopment requires theatrical events and performative acts that revise, resituate, and re-embody particular pasts. The book proposes working memory as a central metaphor for these processes. The book argues, secondly, that in contemporary France street theatre has emerged as working memory's privileged artistic form. If the transition from industrial to postindustrial space relies on theatrical logics, those logics will manifest differently depending on geographic context. The book links the proliferation of street theatre in France since the 1970s to the crisis in Fordist-Taylorist modernity. How have street theatre companies converted spaces of manufacturing into spaces of theatrical production? How do these companies (with municipal governments and developers) connect their work to the work that occurred in these spaces in the past? How do those connections manifest in theatrical events, and how do such events give shape and meaning to redevelopment? Street theatre’s function is both economic and historiographic. It makes the past intelligible as past and useful to the present.

Open Access (free)
Street and theatre at the end of Fordism
David Calder

This chapter interrogates contemporary French street theatre's dominant origin stories, which link the form to the festive protests of May 1968 and to a premodern carnivalesque. After the collapse of the Fordist compromise, street theatre is supposed to have reanimated public space through its transgression of boundaries and its invocation of a pre-industrial past. This chapter brings together street theatre historiography and analysis of key performances by Théâtre de l’Unité and Générik Vapeur to examine the complex and at times contradictory connections between street theatre’s anti-functionalist politics and its anti-theatrical prejudices. Ultimately the chapter argues that street theatre thrives in the remains of the modern industrial city because of its anxious relationship to a mythic urban ideal. This examination of street theatre's complex nostalgia challenges persistent assumptions about street theatre's temporal, spatial, and political work.

in Street theatre and the production of postindustrial space
The Actresses’ Franchise League from 1914 to 1928
Naomi Paxton

On 24 October 1928 the Actresses' Franchise League was at a victory reception held by the Equal Political Rights Campaign Committee to celebrate the passing of the Representation of the People Act which allowed women the vote on the same terms as men. One of the most popular suffrage plays of the pre-war period, Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John's How The Vote Was Won (1909), was performed by some of the original cast. Throughout the war years and the 1920s, the League had maintained its work with and for the suffrage societies and used its extensive networks in the theatre industry to run philanthropic and patriotic projects that furthered the cause of women's equality in society. In all, the Actresses' Franchise League spent only six of its fifty years as an organisation producing what has been known as 'suffrage theatre' – this chapter explores the League's work from the outbreak of war until that 1928 victory performance, focusing particularly on the role of actresses in the Women's Emergency Corps and British Women's Hospital Fund.

in Stage women, 1900–50
Open Access (free)
Eric Pudney

This chapter introduces the book and outlines the broad argument, which revolves around expressions of scepticism and belief towards the phenomenon of witchcraft. It outlines the theoretical and methodological framework for the study, introducing historians of witchcraft, such as Walter Stephens, on whose work it builds. It also positions the study in relation to various previous views of witchcraft drama, especially the work of Diane Purkiss, and indicates how the present book’s concerns and arguments differ.

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
Open Access (free)
Eric Pudney

This chapter studies a specific witchcraft play in depth: Thomas Shadwell’s The Lancashire Witches. The play is shown to be a highly polemical play which uses scepticism about witchcraft in order to establish its favoured characters as rational, lending authority to their unwavering belief in the Popish Plot. The chapter elucidates the play’s anti-Catholicism, and points out the various parallels drawn between Catholics and witches. The play’s extreme Whig position in relation to the succession crisis is established and literary responses by opposing Tory poets are also discussed. The huge irony of the play decrying witchcraft persecution as cruel while encouraging belief in the major witch-hunt of its own time is highlighted.

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
Eric Pudney

This chapter studies a specific witchcraft play in depth: Thomas Heywood and Richard Brome’s The Late Lancashire Witches. Heywood’s previous interest in witchcraft (as shown in his previous works Gynaeikon and The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels) and other discussion of witchcraft from the period provide the intellectual context. It is argued that both context and play demonstrate an increasingly prevalent bifurcation in attitudes towards witchcraft: individual cases of witchcraft are treated with much greater scepticism than previously, but belief in witchcraft in general remains an important cornerstone of religious faith for most orthodox Christians. While the play maintains the reality of witchcraft as a demonic pact in one important scene, it also reveals the growing scepticism of the contemporary culture.

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
Author: Eric Pudney

This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context, highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre. It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension with one another.

Eric Pudney

This chapter discusses the rediscovery of sceptical philosophy (pyrrhonism) during the Renaissance and its relationship with discussions of witchcraft and other debates of the period. It considers the arguments used in the witchcraft debate, especially those of Reginald Scot, and the status of ancient myth as supposedly historical evidence. The terms rhetorical scepticism and submerged scepticism are used to describe and account for various rhetorical strategies and attitudes adopted by authors on witchcraft. It also discusses some of the earliest witchcraft drama, such as Three Laws and Gammer Gurton’s Needle, which predates the Elizabethan anti-witchcraft legislation of 1563, and is connected with the emergence of the English Reformation. These early dramatic works establish a connection between Catholic superstition and witchcraft which endures throughout the period.

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
Open Access (free)
Eric Pudney

This chapter studies a specific witchcraft play in depth: Thomas Dekker, John Ford, and William Rowley’s The Witch of Edmonton. Based partly on the historical case of Elizabeth Sawyer, the play presents a plausible picture of witchcraft by representing it as one sin among many, locating the crime of witchcraft on a scale of human sin which encompasses all humans. By representing the activities of the devil not only with Sawyer but also within the invented story of Frank Thorney, a bigamist and murderer, the play works to normalise the idea of diabolical witchcraft. The sympathy for the witch that so many critics have detected in the play is a function of this levelling vision of human sin, which distributes culpability for the tragic events of the play throughout the Edmonton community.

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681