Victorian touring actresses – Janice Norwood

Posted by Bethan Hirst - Thursday, 21 May 2020


1. How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?

This fascinating exploration of the complex lives and careers of lesser-known Victorian actresses provides a timely reassessment of their significance for performance and women’s history

2. What book in your field has inspired you the most?

Martin Meisel’s Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England was a revelation, offering an interdisciplinary perspective on Victorian cultural production

3. Did your research take you to any unexpected places?

Yes, to several cemeteries to try to track down the graves of some of my subjects. Against the odds, by clambering through the undergrowth in a particularly overgrown one I succeeded in locating a hidden tombstone. After cutting away the dense vegetation, I finally revealed the inscription to the actress and her parents.

4. Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?

Mainly computer, but often started off by notes scribbled after getting out the shower!

5. Why did you choose to publish with MUP?

Because my book is a perfect fit for MUP’s Women, Theatre and Performance series.

6. What are you working on now?

A history of the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton (a working-class Victorian theatre) and in the early stages of research for a project on nineteenth-century death

7. If you could go back and give yourself once piece of advice when starting out on this project, what would it be?

Learn how to use a reference management system in anticipation of unexpected changes to the series referencing format

8. If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?

Carol Birch’s novel Jamrach’s Menagerie, because of its skilful creation of a gripping story that is richly informed by knowledge of nineteenth-century East End history

9. What other genres do you enjoy reading?

Victorian and contemporary fiction, modern drama

10. Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?

Lucy Kirkwood, Roy Williams, Ali Smith, Maggie O’Farrell, Caitlin Moran and, if I could include the deceased, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and Colin Henry Hazlewood.

Victorian touring actresses

Crossing boundaries and negotiating the cultural landscape

By Janice Norwood

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