‘The Best Thing I Ever Did on the Stage’: Edward Gordon Craig and the Purcell Operatic Society

Burt, Philippa. 2022. ‘The Best Thing I Ever Did on the Stage’: Edward Gordon Craig and the Purcell Operatic Society. New Theatre Quarterly, 38(3), pp. 258-269. ISSN 0266-464X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Although lasting only two and a half years, Edward Gordon Craig’s engagement with the Purcell Operatic Society was his most consistent and productive period of work on the stage. This article re-examines this time during Craig’s life in order to ascertain why he saw it to be the zenith of his career. In particular, it analyzes his work with the amateur group to argue that it was foundational in the development of his approach to theatre-making and, further, helped him to introduce the entity of theatre director to Britain and what the role of such a person could be. By examining this material in relation to wider contextual factors, the article also shows how the group offered audiences an alternative to the dominant ‘star’ system of the early 1900s. The article thus indicates why Craig scholarship needs to place the Purcell Operatic Society at the centre of any of its discussions.

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Additional Information:

This article has been published in a revised form in New Theatre Quarterly [http://doi.org/10.1017/S0266464X22000185]. This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed. © Cambridge University Press 2022.


amateurs, ‘star’ system, Henry Irving, Martin Shaw, theatre training, discipline, subscription societies

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


1 March 2022Accepted
19 July 2022Published Online
August 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

11 Aug 2022 11:29

Last Modified:

11 Aug 2022 15:43

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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