Celebrating the launch of Ben Macpherson’s new book, Cultural Identity in British Musical Theatre 1890-1939 (Palgrave, 2018), this seminar examines the performance of ‘Britishness’ on the musical stage.
Through examining a range of long-forgotten musical comedies, anxieties over ‘knowing one’s place’ are uncovered, revealing contradictions in the shifting British worldview in the period between the close of the Victorian era and the start of World War II.
During that tumultuous and uncertain time, imperial tensions collided with early globalisation, and Anglo-Christian conservatism became increasingly challenged through commercial modernity, suffrage, and the effects of global conflicts on society. Such tensions and contradictions are still present in British culture, and are increasingly seen on the contemporary popular stage.
So, as Britain once again finds itself in a tumultuous period of uncertainty, what does the history of the British musical suggest that its role might be in representing British identity?