Stage Death

I love a good story about someone taking an acting role too far. You get a lot of these during the Victorian era, especially. This one was from the Leeds Times, August 22nd, 1896.

“The tragedy in real life at the Novelty Theatre, London should serve as a warning to members of the theatrical profession. Why William Moritz Franks, who was unfortunate enough to kill his fellow actor, Temple Edgecumbe Crezier [these dudes need better stage names], should have resorted to the use of a dangerous weapon in a mere play is beyond conception.

“Just as well might the claim be put forward by theatrical managers that for the purposes of realistic display in a stage battle scene it is essential to use ball instead of blank cartridge. A harmless piece of wood covered with tinfoil would have answered far better than a real weapon, for the metallic covering would have served to reflect the light a convey a livelier impression to the spectators.

I want to pause right there for a moment, just to have a laugh at this reporter’s idea about audiences are best entertained in what is presumably a grim, violent scene: WAVE SOMETHING SHINY AT THEM. Common sense about actor safety aside, no, sir. Tinfoil will NOT suffice. Not then, not now, not ever.

“It is really marvellous that more accidents do not happen on the stage from the indiscriminate use of dangerous weapons. Unfortunately a bad lesson has been set to the lesser lights by such men as the late Charles Kean and Henry Irving, who, expert swordsmen, have carried their mimicry of actual strife with dangerous implements to such extreme that the slightest accident might have entailed very serious consequences. When the danger was foreseen Franks never should have used the dagger. He is greatly to be commiserated with, and the accident will, no doubt, cast a cloud over a promising  future career.”

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