Reading Race, Repertoire, and Transcontinental Reception Through Madame Celeste's Colonial Encounter

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Abstract

By the 1860s the theatrical industry in Australasia was gradually expanding, but had not yet developed into the hub for large-scale syndicated touring that it would become by the end of the century. Impresarios such as George Coppin sought to convince performers from Europe and the US that there were rich pickings to be had on the region’s stages. One of those who responded to his call was veteran French actress Célene Céleste (1810/11-1882), known to audiences across Britain and North America as Madame Celeste. Arriving in 1867 for a twelve-month tour, she risked the venture in order to boost her finances prior to retirement. This paper examines her reception in Australia in relation to her exceptional position as both a representative of, and an outsider to, the British empire. Focusing on Celeste’s choice of melodramatic repertoire, often featuring exoticised ‘others’ in plays such as John Baldwin Buckstone’s The Green Bushes, enables a hitherto unexplored analysis of the complex interplay of racial identity, gender, and ageing in the context of mid-nineteenth-century colonial politics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTouring Performance and Global Exchange 1850-1960
Subtitle of host publicationMaking Tracks
EditorsGilli Bush-Bailey, Kate Flaherty
Place of PublicationAbingdon and New York
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter8
Pages119-137
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781003055860
ISBN (Print)9780367519506, 9780367519667
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • theatre
  • nineteenth century
  • ageing
  • melodrama
  • race
  • Celeste
  • Australia

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