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Shakespearean Henry Kemble creates a “row” on the Australian Colonial Stage, 1846–1859
journal contributionposted on 13.02.2019, 00:00 by Nicole Anae
Theatre historians may be familiar with a nineteenth-century performer named Henry Kemble whose Shakespearean readings of the 1850s – “monopolylogues” – often feature as humorous footnotes in examinations of Shakespearean performance of the mid-nineteenth century. Less known is that intermingling of Kemble's Shakespearean performance with a growing public taste for riot and performances of rioting. I argue that Kemble’s Shakespearean monopolylogues provided settings for the performance of tamer approximations of social disorder characteristic of rioting in the Georgian period, specifically in relation to the British Riot Act of 1715. While the very nature of Kemble’s performances seem to suggest that deliberately creating a “row”, “uproar” or “set-to” was, by design, the principal feature of his presentations, his choice of Shakespeare as much as his mode of enactment shines new light on mid-nineteenth-century colonial definitions and management of riotous behaviour. Kemble’s press as a Shakespearean performer remains unmatched in its ability to illustrate not only the extent to which aggressive audience involvement was both tolerated and to some degree sanctioned within expressions of colonial law enforcement, but how conducive Kemble’s appearances were to a conspiratorial relationship between himself, his patrons and the colonial constabulary.