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The Victorian Clown, first published in 2006, is a micro-history of mid-Victorian comedy, spun out of the life and work of two professional clowns. Their previously unpublished manuscripts - James Frowde's account of his young life with the famous Henglers' circus in the 1850s and Thomas Lawrence's 1871 gag book - offer unique, unmediated access to the grass roots of popular entertainment. Through them this book explores the role of the circus clown at the height of equestrian entertainment in Britain, when the comic managed audience attention for the riders and acrobats, parodying their skills in his own tumbling and contortionism, and also offered a running commentary on the times through his own 'wheezes' - stand-up comedy sets. Plays in the ring connect the circus to the stage, and both these men were also comic singers, giving a sharp insight into popular music just as it was being transformed by the new institution of music hall.
Jacky Bratton is Professor of Theatre and Cultural History in the Department of Drama and Theatre, Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the author of New Readings in Theatre History (Cambridge, 2003), and, with Julie Hankey, is Joint Series Editor of the Shakespeare in Production series published by Cambridge University Press. She also discusses theatre history on BBC radio. Ann Featherstone is Research Assistant in the Department of Drama and Theatre, Royal Holloway, University of London. Her interests encompass popular entertainment and culture, and she has published on subjects such as public entertainments, the diary of a Victorian theatre-goer in Nottingham, and the portable theatres in Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film and Early Popular Visual Culture. She is also a part-time lecturer in theatre history and popular culture at the University of Manchester.