In September 1809, during the opening night of "Macbeth" at the rebuilt Covent Garden theatre, the audience rioted against the rise in ticket prices. Disturbances took place for a further 66 nights that autumn and the Old Price riots are the longest running theatre riots in English history. This book describes the events in detail, sets them in a wider context, and uses them to examine the inter-relation of theatre and disorder. Previous understandings of the riots are substantially revised by stressing populist rather than class politics and the book concentrates on the theatricality of audiences, the role of the stage in shaping English self-image and the relationship between contention and consensus. In so doing, theatre and theatricality are rediscovered as explanations for the social and politial structures of the Georgian period. Based on extensive research in theatre and governmental documents, private correspondence, satirical drawings and other ephemera, this study contributes to the social and cultural history of early 19th century Britain.
This book is aimed at a readership of scholars, graduates, some undergraduates studying social/political/cultural history of early 19th-century theatre historians.
'Baer's impressive study persuasively questions recent interpretations of the riots as a dramatic form of class war. Marc Baer makes a useful contribution to our knowledge of both the riots and the political underworld of theatre in early nineteenth-century London.'
Times Literary Supplement
`enthralling new book ...Baer's book is a ground-breaking attempt at synthesis, bringing together orthodox theatre history, politics, and the study of popular culture. As such it is greatly to be welcomed, and its complex conclusions should be required reading for anyone interested in the behaviour of crowds, be they in the theatre or at the football stadium.'
Ian A. Bell, Theatre Research International
'clear and well-researched monograph ... Marc Baer offers a minutely detailed chronicle of the ruckus'
Roy Porter, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, Labour History Review, Vol. 57, No. 3, Winter 1992
'rich and multifaceted case study ... His copious references masterfully knit his story into the fabric of theater, history and theory, anthropology, and social, cultural, and political history.'
John Bohstedt, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, American Historical Review, February 1993