Memory, screens and reflections, is the last in a series of performed lectures I have been developing over the past six years in and around my research on women’s performance histories. This made-for-film version traces a path through the shifting sands of ‘material remains’: the object, the family photograph, the professional scrapbook and the half-remembered anecdote, to take in the textual traces of bodies in performance, the grainy techno-coloured reminiscence of black and white images, the virtual histories fleetingly present on the web and subject to erasure when interest wanes or when the last memory fades. In dialogue with Frances Maria Kelly’s nineteenth-century performed autobiographical history Dramatic Recollections, I explore my own family’s theatrical ephemera including materials from my own early performance career, making connections between the micro-narratives of autobiographical performance and the meta-narrative of theatre history. Through an exploration of women’s re-membered performance history, spectral metaphors of performance past make way for the more vibrant presence of the performed palimpsest. As one part of my own past performance is found written into the memories of fictional characters in contemporary literature, the purposes of history take on ever more complex layers in the present experience of what has passed, and what is still to come, for women in theatre.
This event is associated with the research colloquium:
Transferring or Transforming Performance?: Theatrical Touring and the 19th Century
A Colloquium at the Australian National University, 14-16th February, 2019
My first career as an actress began when I was twelve years old. I trained at Arts Educational (London) but left school at fifteen to make the televised film series Here Come the Double Deckers (1970) - which will definitely feature in this performed lecture – more work in television and then theatre followed. My academic training began as a mature student at Kingston University (BA English 1995) where I returned as a part-time lecturer to work with a team founding a new drama degree programme (2000). My postgraduate degrees were undertaken in the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London (PhD 2000) where I then took up my first full-time lectureship (2001). I was Director of Graduate Studies and then Head of Department (2008-2012), taking my most important role in theatre by far, as the lead of the team delivering the department’s landmark Caryl Churchill Theatre.
My work as a child actress on British TV is instrumental in my historiographical approach to my book Performing Herself: AutoBiography and Fanny Kelly’s Dramatic Recollections (2011). It is also the subject of a chapter in Entertaining Children (2014). The chapter in Women and Comedy and the collection of monologues included in Plays and Performance Texts by Women 1880-1930 (edited with Maggie Gale) further my ongoing research in the cultural politics of women’s performance work on stage and screen. Recent research on radio writer and comedienne Mabel Constanduros is forthcoming in Stage Women: Female Theatre Workers, Professional Practice and Agency in the Twentieth Century – 1900-1950s, edited by Maggie B. Gale and Katharine Dorney. My interest in making histories with new generations of female theatre makers can be seen in the collaboration with Tonic Theatre on the Advance programme; Present from the Past project with Northern Stage and, most recently as advisor on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Mary Pix’s The Beau Defeated (1700) retitled Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich. I will be standing down as Chair of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) in September 2018 and I am an honorary life member of the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments (SCUDD).