Politics, Performance and Popular Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Date: 7 July 2011 Time: 11.00 am

Venue: The Storey, Lancaster

This is the second conference organised as part of Professors Kate Newey (Birmingham) and Jeffrey Richards's (Lancaster) AHRC-funded project on the 'Cultural History of English Pantomime'. Our first conference was 'The Sister Arts in the Popular Theatre, c.1820-1910'. For our next, we wish to encourage discussion and debate on the connections and interrelationships between politics, performance and popular culture.

Pantomime serves as useful measure of popular perceptions of contemporary political issues. As is the case nowadays, nineteenth-century pantomime made jokes at the expense of politicians and 'celebrities', made comment on topical events of the day, and poked fun at local, national, and world events. Stage managers were reliant upon a well-attended and long-running pantomime in order to finance their theatre for the year: a vibrant, fun, and relevant production was thus crucial. David Mayer, in his seminal work on the topic, emphasises how pantomime offered 'immediate and specific comment' (Harlequin in His Element, 1969, p. 2). As such, the study of pantomime - and reviews of pantomime in contemporary newspapers and periodicals - provides 'the historian with an informal chronicle of the age' (Witchard,Thomas Burke's Dark Chinoiserie, p. 24). In his introduction to a recent collection of critical essays, Jim Davis notes that pantomime was 'not only an all-pervasive form of popular entertainment, but also functioned as a way of seeing, even as a metaphor, in shaping perceptions of the contemporary world' (Victorian Pantomime, 2010, p. 2). Study of pantomime thus enables analysis both of public response to political satire and public understanding of contemporary politics; but also an opportunity to further delineate Victorian attitudes to sex, gender, class, and race in particular, and popular engagement with Victorian 'politics' more generally.

Event website: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/edacs/departments/drama/news/2011/politics-performance-conference.aspx


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Jeffrey Richards, Peter Yeandle

Organising departments and research centres: History

Keywords: Art/cultural history, Political theatre, Theatre, Theatre and performance, Theatre history, Theatre music, Victorian culture, Victorian literature, Visual culture