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Chapter 8 - Ellen Terry Stars at the Shakespeare Hut

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2023

Amy Lidster
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
Sonia Massai
Affiliation:
King's College London
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Summary

A history of Shakespeare in wartime could not be complete without including an object representing the only built memorial in London for Shakespeare’s Tercentenary of 1916, the Shakespeare Hut for servicemen on leave in London. However, material traces of this extraordinary building are extremely scarce. Focusing for the first time on the material and paradigmatic significance of one surviving object from this building and a sister document, this essay examines a paper programme that epitomizes the multilayered significance of women’s Shakespearean performance in wartime. This programme presents an evening of Shakespearean speeches, scenes, and songs, performed by diverse practitioners from theatre superstar Ellen Terry to a troupe of teenaged girls from Miss Italia Conte’s school. Terry kept a copy of this piece of ephemera for the rest of her life. The programme’s flimsy physical form (a small, folded piece of thin paper) reveals how necessary wartime austerity contrasts starkly with the cornucopia of star talent and entertainments presented within, reminding us of the ephemeral and uniquely transient nature both of wartime performance and of the specific fragility and rarity of material traces of women’s wartime Shakespeare production.

Type
Chapter
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Shakespeare at War
A Material History
, pp. 81 - 90
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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