Strolers performing Hamlet

Strolers performing Hamlet

Successful actors and actresses could hope for long term employment at the big theatres in cities such as London or Dublin, but there were also touring companies who moved around the country’s major towns and cities. Some of these were well known and relatively prosperous, however becoming a ‘strolling’ player was seen by many as degrading. Touring was often a less lucrative (and less comfortable) option. The companies were generally smaller, more characters had to be cut and so plays were shortened and adapted to suit the number of players available. Audiences in the country were thought to be coarser and the actors’ clothes in the picture are distinctly tatty. An 18th century actress, Charlotte Charke, described working with a strolling company as ‘a contemptible life’. She even recalls watching one of her fellow actresses edging sideways around the stage in a very peculiar manner in order to disguise the fact that she had no stockings on.