'Royal pierrots' and white coons: The british pierrot troupe in the racial and national imaginary

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Abstract

The Pierrot tradition, invented towards the end of the nineteenth century, established a prevalent but now largely forgotten mode of performance around the coastal resorts of Britain. In this article, Dave Calvert considers the relevance of this form in its historical context. Arguing that it observes the preservation of anachronism consistent with notions of invented traditions, he situates the Pierrot tradition within a symbolic network concerned with national identity and experience. This includes its declared links to the construction of royalty as the head of the imperial family, and both its schism and continuity with the tradition of blackface minstrelsy whose conventions it maintains. Its location at the seaside accentuates this network of relations and elevates it to a transcendental plane of the imaginary untroubled by the complexities of modern life. Dave Calvert is a Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Huddersfield. His research encompasses popular theatre, applied theatre and learning-disabled performance. He is also a member of The Pierrotters, the last remaining professional seaside Pierrot troupe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-120
Number of pages14
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

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