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19th century performance conditions

Uploaded by xsparklyvix on Sep 06, 2005

19th Century Performance Conditions
1800-1900

Theatre of the Time
o Much larger theatres – Drury Lane (3000) Acting space diminished meaning actors moved behind the proscenium arch
o Huge size necessitated slower, more demonstrative acting technique
o Less audience involvement due to the large distance from the stage
o 1817 introduction of gas light
o Auditorium now in darkness during production
o Free standing props and hydraulic machinery
o Henry Irving – famous actor
o Introduction of foolights (using lime)
o Emphasis on the spectacle rather than the spoken word
o !rvings 1878 production of Hamlet run at the London Lyceum, used period costume and settings, ran for 200 nights
o Introduced a psychological Hamlet in keeping with Romantic movement
o Victorians reverted to original Shakespearean text


Middle class support for the theatre diminished between 1820 and 1850. Actors were ‘rogues and scurvy vagabonds’ and audiences were often rowdy during the performance. The production standards were shabby and sets and costumes were thrown together from stock scenery and wardrobes. From the mid 19th century, there was a conscious effort by the theatre to throw off its rowdy associations and win acceptance by the new middle classes.

Victorian theatre was in essence spectacular and the advances in stage technology and lighting had a great effect on production styles. Pictorial theatre with its lavish and detailed sets and costumes reflected the Victorian obsession with history and archaeology and appealed to the educated middle classes. Theatres were redesigned and the cheap benches near the stage were replaced by comfortable padded seats. The rowdier audience members were moved up into the galleries. Carpets were laid in the aisles and the pit was renamed the stalls. By the 1890s theatres such as Drury Lane under Augustus Harris were spending enormous amounts on design and costume.

From the middle of the 19th century the theatre began to take on a new respectability and draw in more middle class audiences. They were enthralled by the historical accuracy and attention to detail that was becomingly increasingly influential in stage design. Pictorial drama placed great emphasis on the use of properties, and carefully studied costume detail and reflected a fashionable interest in archaeology and history. The inevitable long and complex scene changes meant that the plays, especially those by Shakespeare had to be cut. This use of historical detail gave the theatre a sense of learned respectability.

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Uploaded by:   xsparklyvix

Date:   09/06/2005

Category:   Plays

Length:   2 pages (372 words)

Views:   9721

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