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3 - Cultural formations: the nineteenth-century touring actress and her international audiences

from Part I - Turning points

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

John Stokes
Affiliation:
King's College London
Maggie B. Gale
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
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Summary

The theatre has always been an itinerant art which recognises the need to take its product to its audiences, as well as a responsive art which identifies its financial survival in its ability to meet audience demands. For some English companies in the mid- and late nineteenth century, survival was ineluctably bound up with the need to support the opulent central London locations which were both a huge financial burden, and a necessary part of the theatre's effort to attract and to sustain a middle-class audience. Henry Irving's Lyceum was one of the most luxurious and socially successful of these theatres. Secure in its social reputation, with visits from royalty and the leading figures of British, European and American cultural life, nonetheless the Lyceum's London productions made a loss between 1875 and 1899 of almost £22,000. The company's financial stability was only secured by its exhaustive domestic and international tours. North America proved its most valuable source of income, with each performance grossing over £80, as opposed to the loss of £5 10s for each London performance. Thus, as Tracy C. Davis points out, touring should not be understood as a bonus or residual profit, building on London profits; rather, touring made being in London possible. The splendours which signified the Lyceum's London stage were only made possible by the company's tours in the United States, Australia and the provinces. But other reasons existed too for the national and international tours that were increasingly becoming a regular part of the theatre company's routine.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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