Family of acrobats
Photographed by Elliot & Fry
Late 19th century
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This publicity photograph advertising a music hall act is one of hundreds in the Theatre Museum's collections. Some commercially issued photographs from this period are identified with the name of the performers, but many, such as this one, simply have the name of the photographer. Once music hall had become widespread, it needed more acts than the original singers and comedians. Acrobats and other acts that we now associate with circuses rather than theatres, were therefore brought into the programmes. These acrobats wear a version of the fitted tunic named after the famous trapeze artist Jules Leotard, which gives maximum freedom to the body and which is still worn by dancers today. These family members are probably 'Risley' acrobats, named after Professor Risley who appeared with his sons at the Haymarket and Drury Lane in the 1840s in an act in which the children were 'flung about in the air'.