Victorians at Play: Performances

Ref: C2346989

There was no lack of entertainment in Victorian Britain, from performances of Greek tragedies to hot air balloon ascents that sometimes went spectacularly wrong. We will look firstly at the nature of professional theatre, and how and why it evolved to broaden its appeal to the ticket-buying public. By the end of the 19th century popular entertainment was dominated by music hall and 'variety' theatre, the former offering a rich vein of social comment from stars such as Marie Lloyd and Gus Elen. The Christmas pantomime became a permanent fixture; but amateur theatre also flourished alongside brass bands, fundraising concerts - and the 'recitations' that brightened (or blighted) many a family occasion. We will also consider why 'spectacles' like demonstrations of tightrope walking were so popular, and how royal events such as jubilees were celebrated. In the process, we will consider the influence of social class, income and gender on access to different forms of 'performance'.

Course aim

To explore a range of entertainment for different Victorian social classes, and the factors that influenced their accessibility and popularity - including theatre and music hall, brass bands, and popular spectacles such as hot air balloon ascents.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Account for the popularity of the music hall to middle class as well as working class audiences.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

Your lecture will be delivered in a ‘traditional’ talk-to-camera style, but there will be opportunities to ask questions and engage in discussion at the end. Slide-show images will be used to illustrate key points, and a short summary of the lecture will be posted to Canvas soon after the event.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Victorians at Play: Performances


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  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
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