Friday, 27 January 2012

On With the Show

I've chosen the 'performance' part of Theatre for this week's Sepia Saturday theme. I have two copies of this photographic postcard so imagine Atherton Photographers in Barrow who took the picture  found the large cast a profitable venture.  My connection to the production is my father who stands on the back row in the clown costume, (he is the one on the left) and seems to have really gone to town on the make-up as Pete the clown.  I think this is probably the Emmanuel Church group, they put on many stage performances but this must have been significant because it had a programme which my father has clipped and pasted the cast list onto the back of the card  
and I recognise another two names, Cyril Pratt, my fathers lifelong friend playing the Dutch Boy and Tom Butcher who plays the Indian Chief, which fitted his flamboyant character (his nickname was 'The Count').

I wondered what Mrs Jarley's Waxworks was and discovered its name comes from the character in Charles Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop, proprietor of a travelling waxworks who employs Nell and her Grandfather.  This name was taken when theatrical groups, mainly amateur, dressed up and performed as waxworks with one of them appearing as Mrs Jarley, and others appearing as her assistants.  I notice on this photo that Mrs Jarley was played in the great British dame tradition by a man and imagine the clowns were her assistants. The 'waxworks' appeared on stage in groups. Each one was described in a humorous way by Mrs Jarley and was then wound up and oiled by the assistants to perform words and/or music. Such 'waxwork' shows were popular in late Victorian and the early 20th Century in both Britain and America, where we will journey to a smaller cast appearing on 
an artotype made by Albert Bierstadt from one of his many Adirondack photographs which I found on the Adirondack Museum site. 
"The image shows men and women posed on a makeshift stage in the parlour of the Prospect House in Blue Mountain Lake, New York.  A number of well-dressed men and women sit in chairs facing the stage. The hotel's chandelier hangs in front of the valance curtain.  Prospect House was situated at the foot of Blue Mountain, on a point of land jutting out into Blue Mountain Lake". The six-story, 300-room Prospect House opened in 1882. It had many modern conveniences that other hotels in the area did not have, such as a steam-powered elevator".
An entry to Sepia Saturday


9 comments:

Wendy said...

I am not familiar with waxworks, so this is very interesting to me. Your father's group created some elaborate costumes for the performance. I hope they made some good money that evening.

Postcardy said...

That was interesting. I hadn't heard of Mrs. Jarley's Waxworks or waxworks shows before.

Jinksy said...

Waxworks to me meant Madame Tussaud's, before today! Thanks...:)

Bob Scotney said...

I shall have to take a look at Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop again now. A large cast for the show - well done to the clowns.

Little Nell said...

An interesting post. I do like to learn something new, and I thought I already knew 'The Old Curiosity Shop’, (as you would expect with my blogger name!). It’s great that you actually know something about some of the cast members.

Kristin said...

Interesting the way that the people are sitting around almost on the stage in rocking stairs.

Karen S. said...

Oh wow, what an amazing performance that had to be. Those costumes are just great..and the actors how cool...what a great old story it was!

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

Very interesting story and great family history! Thanks for sharing.

Christine H. said...

How interesting. I had never heard of waxworks shows before. That's one of the things I love about Sepia Saturday; every week I learn something new and interesting.