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A theatre maker in every sense

Lily Brayton was one half of the twentieth century’s first celebrity couple on the London stage. Together with her husband, Oscar Asche, Brayton dominated popular theatre for a decade with her brave and ingenious characterisations of the ‘oriental woman’ in a series of plays from Kismet (1911) to Cairo (1921). She had come to fame, often in breeches roles, in popularised versions of Shakespeare plays since the turn of the century. Her ‘New Woman’ characterisations and performances were matched equally by her offstage business acumen. The chapter explores Brayton’s positive and successful image of woman, both on and off the stage, and sets this against her near erasure from theatre history as her separation from the stage occurred simultaneously with her separation from her husband.

in Stage women, 1900–50