New York, Christmas 1927; whilst touring with a show, George Barry Lupino Snr, a member of the world-famous Lupino family of actors and performers, writes a letter to his eleven-year-old son, George Barry Lupino Jnr, who is touring elsewhere in another show. The letter takes the form of an imaginary tour of the Britannia Theatre in Hoxton, a place they both know. George Senior, invites his son to come with him to the theatre and surrounding city he knew as a boy.
The theatre was in its pomp and prime and was filled to the rafters with adoring crowds who came to watch the shows and performers who included the young George’s own grandfather who strode the boards of the ‘Bloody Brit’ under the watchful eye of the proprietor, Sarah Lane, a powerful and independent woman of business who ruled the theatre and its patrons with a rod of iron.
George introduces his son to characters who occupied and frequented the theatre and tells him hilarious anecdotes of mischief undertaken by himself and his brother whilst painting a gloriously accurate and moving account of the hardship of the times.
The letter, whilst perhaps intended to be a source of nostalgic comfort to a son separated from his family in a foreign country, is also a vivid slice of social history and homage to a bygone era of British entertainment.
‘George Barry Lupino Senior’s wonderfully written letter is packed with vivid reminiscences and keenly observed information about backstage life at the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton, in its heyday.
‘A treat to read for everyone and a hoard of previously unrecorded detail of nineteenth-century theatre life for the theatre historian.’
(Catherine Haill, Curator of Popular Entertainment, V&A Museum)
‘A vivid and vibrant painting of theatre life in the nineteenth century, the colours of which are as bold and bright today as I am sure they were over one hundred years ago.’