Theatre and Associational Life in Late Eighteenth-Century Northern England and the Scottish Borders
Supervisor: Dr Catriona Kennedy
My research focuses on how Georgian actors contributed to associational life both inside and outside the playhouse in northern England and the Scottish Borders. Previously most attention has been on London which has left much of the rest of the theatrical nation unexamined. However, this has neglected some of the period’s most important performers. Actors are nothing without their public and the theatre was at the very heart of sociability. Therefore actors can serve as an effective research tool to examine networks of relations in order to better understand how ideas were generated and shared across the country during a period of great change. Many companies developed a circuit of towns which they visited during the year, making actors highly mobile, while their professional status also allowed them to pass across strict social divides. Many were active agents in the community, playing a role in intellectual and political debate especially regarding political reform, the abolition of slavery and war. They also provide insight into the emergence of local civil society which was driven by freemasonry, an enlightenment institution which attracted actors in large numbers. The British national anthem was first sung publicly in a theatre in 1745. Now, as Brexit approaches, Britain faces new challenges regarding its identity. Ultimately, this research attempts to discover the regional players who were instrumental in helping establish that identity and which aspects of it we might consider keeping and why.