Stage Echoes: Tracing the Pantomime Harlequinade through Comic Ballet, Trap Work, and Silent Film

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The harlequinade was an important feature of Regency and Victorian pantomimes. Part of its appeal was the bravura performance of Harlequin, who in evading the dogged pursuit of Clown and Pantaloon, continually disappeared and reappeared as he leapt through a complex arrangement of stage flaps and traps. As the nineteenth-century progressed, the harlequinade was eliminated from most pantomimes but a variation on the tradition continued in dumb ballets. This article demonstrates the dynamic process by which Harlequin’s antics were reinterpreted in new popular spectacles. Starting from a comic entertainment produced in 1871 at London’s Britannia Theatre, I trace its heritage as embodied culture, establishing its links to early nineteenth-century pantomime harlequinade and to simian performance, and tracking the appearance of comic or dumb ballets in theatres and music halls in Britain, France, and the US through the Lauri family of performers. Finally, following the example of David Mayer, I identify the legacy of pantomime’s complex trap work in silent film of the early twentieth century by examining Lupino Lane’s Joyland (1929). The new technology of the cinema is thus linked to much earlier dramatic traditions by the skills passed down through generations of theatrical families.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheatre Survey
Issue number3
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Mar 2024


  • pantomime
  • silent film
  • stage traps
  • Lupino Lane
  • monkey
  • dumb ballet
  • Charles Lauri


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