'The play's the thing...':
performance and audience experience
It is theatrical ephemera which often reveals the machinery of attracting audiences to a performance, entertaining them whilst there, and maintaining that interest after the stage lights have gone down. Items here reflect the appearance and reception of theatrical events, including their promotion by the theatres themselves.
The playbill displayed here reveals the bombastic promotion of theatres and the need to entice its prospective audience with bold claims, famous names and elaborate sets – or at least the expectation of these! Theatre Royal, Haymarket playbill for 'Richelieu', 1841 (RW/4/1/63/14)
Posed cabinet card photographs of actresses playing the role of Lady Macbeth are suggestive of the appearance of the actual performance but, as with the playbill, part of the interest lies in how this image might have related to the reality from an audience perspective.
Cabinet photographs of actresses as Lady Macbeth, c. late 19th century – Constance Benson top left (RW/14/3/13), Sarah Bernhardt top right (RW/14/3/14) Ellen Terry, centre (RW/14/3/55)
The souvenir portfolio of prints showing individual performers in costume from the Lyric Theatre production of ‘La Cigale’ reflects both the theatre’s need to benefit from successful shows, but also the audience's desire to capture the ephemeral moment of performance.
Souvenir programme of ‘La Cigale’ at the Lyric Theatre, c.1890 (RW/3/13/17)
Next - Double takes: satire and the theatrical establishment