'Drunken Wastrel', Tiller Clowes Marionette Company. Museum no. S.306-1999

'Drunken Wastrel', Tiller Clowes Marionette Company. Museum no. S.306-1999

'Drunken Wastrel'
Tiller Clowes Marionette Company
Carved wood with painted decoration; sewn cotton stuffed body with tweed, cotton and wool costume
England
Late 19th century
Museum no. S.306-1999

Every troupe of Victorian marionettes had characters that could be cast in a selection of plays, as well as more specialised performers. This character from the Tiller-Clowes troupe could have played the 'waster' or 'ne'er do well' in a number of Victorian melodramas. He wears a bow tie, showing his pretension to be the well-to-do young man about town, but his painted moustache displays a more raffish side of his character, while the bottle of beer in his left hand shows a dangerous penchant for alcohol.

The string that operates the bottle-holding hand can be strung through a metal ring above his lip so that he can either hold the bottle low, or raise it to his mouth. Several Victorian plays dealt with the evil of alcohol which was a serious social problem, and organisations like the Salvation Army campaigned hard against alcoholism, the drug problem of its day.