This is a book for theatre-lovers, written for anyone who shares the author's curiosity about the art of acting and about theatre past and present.
The first section centres on Elizabethan theatre practice, the second highlights themes, episodes and contemporary taste in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in England, and the third focuses on twentieth-century performances of Shakespeare at Stratford in the 1970s and in the New Globe as the new century begins.
The extensive cast of actors discussed includes Richard Tarlton, Will Kemp, David Garrick, Samuel Foote, Richard and Mary Ann Yates, Thomas Weston, John Kemble, Edmund Kean, Frederick Robson, Henry Irving, Ian Richardson and Ben Kingsley.
Peter Thomson has been Professor of Drama at the University of Exeter since 1974. He is author and editor of numerous books, including The Everyman Companion to the Theatre (Dent, 1985), Shakespeare's Theatre (Routledge, revised edition 1992), The Cambridge Companion to Brecht (Cambridge, 1994), Shakespeare's Professional Career (Cambridge, new edition 1999).
Part 1 Actors and acting in the early modern theatre: the Elizabethan actor - a matter of temperament; making an entrance - Chaucer to Tarlton; the missing jig; three Elizabethan actors; a note on Elizabethan rehearsal. Part 2 Actors and acting in the 18th and 19th centuries: bigamy and theatre; David Garrick - alive in every muscle; summer company - Drury Lane in 1761; Edmund Kean versus John Philip Kemble; Frederick Robson - a downright good actor; Irving and the Lyceum - volcano and cathedral. Part 3 Shakespeare in the 20th century: Shakespeare at Stratford - 1970-1975; the New Globe - monument or portent?