Jacky Bratton

Jacky Bratton


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Personal profile

Research interests

My research has ranged widely across the history of theatre and culture in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. My 2011 monograph, The Making of the West End Stage: Marriage, management and the mapping of gender in London, 1830-1870 was the culmination of a long engagement with the Victorians and their predecessors. The previous monograph, New Readings in Theatre History, published in 2003, set out a revisionist historiography arguing for a more organic, less judgemental and hierarchical understanding of the history of the British stage. Together these two books are a crystallisation of my interest in all the teeming life of the gas lit stage – I have written about melodrama on horseback and blackface minstrelsy as well as Henry Irving’s King Lear, dramatists from Jane Scott to Arthur Wing Pinero and music hall male impersonators like Vesta Tilley. In pursuit of new ways of reading the past of performance, I have drawn upon feminist and cultural materialist histories, and begun to collaborate with colleagues in practice-based research, where we are developing the revival of Romantic melodrama and burletta. From this aspect of my interest in past performance there developed The Victorian Clown, CUP 2006, which looks at the roots of stand-up comedy in two unpublished manuscripts by Victorian comic men – a contortionist bottle-balancer and a circus clown. All this research was part of an AHRC-funded project which aimed to set the understanding of nineteenth-century theatre on a broader basis. Another aspect of thiswidening perspective is the work I have done with the British Library in cataloguing and key-wording a decade of the manuscruipt plays in the Lord Chamberlain's Collection, a project which is ongoing in the publication of texts from the collection, newly transcribed and edited, on the RHUL website.

 My current research is a two-volume edition of plays for Oxford University Press from the works of Charles Dickens, in collaboration with Professor Jim Davis of Warwick. My argument is that Dickens is the hidden genius of the Victorian stage, meaning not only that the theatre was obviously important in his novels, but that his work, staged as he wrote it, was an important dimension of his reception and his creative life in his own time, and makes him the best known Victorian dramatic writer today. The first step in an appreciation of his dramatic work is a wider acquaintance with these play texts created from his work for his contemporary theatres and audiences.

VIDEO - Tom Lawrence's Gagbook from The Victorian Clown by Jacky Bratton and Ann Featherstone
Filmed at a revival workshop Royal Holloway University of London June 28 - July 1 2007


The Music Hall database formed part of my research a few years ago, and is now offered as an interactive resource for anyone interested in seeking information on people who appeared in the London Music Halls between 1860 and 1890.