John Watson


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The idea of retelling theatre stories began with a second-hand copy of Donald Sinden’s Theatrical Anecdotes. Other anthologies, biographies and histories followed. Widening circles of biblio-graphies soon spread out into earlier anthologies and accounts, from practitioners within the theatre — Oxberry, Bunn, Wilkinson, Macready — as well as from the memoirs of ardent theatregoers — Pepys, Hunt, Moore, Haydon… But the remarkable degree to which certain stories are repeated again and again makes specific acknowledgment of sources impossible. For example, Macklin’s final octogenarian appearance as Shylock, Barrymore’s hurling of a fish from the stage, Charles Kemble’s treatment of a crying child in the audience, Garrick’s parsimony, Ralph Richardson’s parrot, Barry’s and Garrick’s competing Romeos — these are typical of hundreds of set pieces which recur almost obsessively. And the same blunder or witticism may well be attributed to a surprisingly large cast.
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