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Cathcart vs Brooke: a Touring Actress and a Trial of Public Private Identity in the Australian Colonies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2017


In this article Kate Flaherty examines the sensational contractual dispute that arose between Gustavus Vaughan Brooke and Mary Fanny Cathcart during their Australian colonial tour in 1855. She follows Brooke's attempt to use his theatrical repertoire to achieve and consolidate a legal victory over Cathcart, but argues that this strategy ultimately backfired and elicited a form of judgement by the theatregoing public that countered the judgement handed down by the Supreme Court. Conversely, coverage of the case in Australian newspapers is identified as shaping reviews and sharpening the edge of the stage dramas. The article provides a focused instance of the complex interplay of dramatic works, cultural politics, gendered power, and publicity that characterized nineteenth-century theatrical touring. Kate Flaherty is a lecturer in English and Drama at the Australian National University, a member of the International Shakespeare Conference, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is author of Ours as We Play It: Australia Plays Shakespeare (University of Western Australia Press, 2011), as well as numerous essays on how Shakespeare's works play on the stage of public culture.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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