Children and Theatre in Victorian Britain by A. Varty

By A. Varty

This is often an interdisciplinary examine of kids at the Victorian level, analyzing the social and old context during which little ones labored within the theatre through the 19th century.

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Eyes right! Chest out! 96 When not trained within a theatrical company it was most common for young children to be prepared for individual roles by their parents. The brusque debut experience of the four year-old Vesta Tilley, dressed as Red-Riding Hood and carried onto the stage of the St. George’s Music Hall in Nottingham in 1868 by her father was unusual. He set her down with the blunt advice, ‘Now don’t be frightened. Sing as if you mean it. Do not cough. ’ She sang, but then hesitated: I stood there, uncertain for the first time what to do, because he had not told me which way to leave the stage.

102 By the 1890s the idea that women could work for their livings had become commonplace, even if it was still regarded with suspicion in some quarters. In a collection of essays of practical advice edited by Lady Jeune called Ladies at Work, each of which had first appeared in the Christian journal for girls and young women The Monthly Packet, the chapter on ‘The Stage’ sits cheek by jowl with ‘The Medical Profession’ and ‘Journalism’ as a legitimate pursuit. For this I paid four-and-sixpence per week.

119 Written twenty years after the heat had gone out of the political debate, this article reviewed Nolan’s activity in terms of ‘The Pixies’ Tea-Party’ which took place during the interval between matinee and evening performance in pantomime season: To take tea at Happy Nolan’s on a matinee day is an inspiring ceremony. The chief – very tall and very thin – sits in the chair of state that has arms and back to it. He presides over the feast and maintains order. There are, perhaps, two or three girls who have passed the fairy stage, and are performing with troupes.

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