Gagging for it: irony, innuendo and the politics of subversion in women’s comic performance on the post-1880 London music-hall stage and its resonance in contemporary practice

Beale, Samantha (2018) Gagging for it: irony, innuendo and the politics of subversion in women’s comic performance on the post-1880 London music-hall stage and its resonance in contemporary practice. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This thesis focuses on women performing comedy on the London music-hall stage after 1880, examining performers including Bessie Bellwood, Marie Lloyd, Marie Loftus, Maidie Scott, Vesta Victoria and Nellie Wallace. The work of these
women as comedy has been neglected in theatre and performance histories, and their influence on the evolution of popular forms and the development of twentieth and twenty-first century comic traditions has received little scholarly attention. I argue that performing comic material offered them unique opportunities to connect directly with popular audiences, resist censorship and to challenge gender stereotypes and common perceptions of and restrictions on women and women’s roles in Britain during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As part of their performances they developed comic approaches and techniques that remain identifiable in contemporary comedy, engaging in a range of strategies, from playful and disruptive ironic representations of familiar female types, to deliberately transgressive acts of crossing the line of decency through the embodiment of comic innuendo. Their knowing interpretations of coded references in the written texts of the material performed and jokes shared with their audiences during performances frequently served as ironic socio-political commentary on their lives and experiences. Making use of a range of critical approaches from areas as diverse as performance history and historiography, contemporary approaches to gender and comedy, performance theory, humour theory and feminist literary theory, I engage in analysis of extensive archive material. Throughout the thesis I also draw direct
comparisons with the work of women who use comedy in late twentieth and twenty-first century forms, including stand-up comedy and performance art, to demonstrate a continuum of comic practice existing between these female music-hall
artists and their counterparts performing comedy today.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts > Theatre Arts group
B. > Theses
Item ID: 23853
Depositing User: Vimal Shah
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2018 11:18
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2018 14:57
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/23853

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