Disclaimer to cover myself. A lot has changed societally since I started the site. There’s Male Impersonators and the trans issues we discussed on Friday night. There’s the Chocolate Coloured Coon, who was a friend to both Hetty and Ella Shields, and whose widow, June Franey, I knew. I just can’t get rid of the old lad and pretend he never existed (as they’ve done in Sussex with his gravestone, which has been removed after complaints). I explore some of these race issues in the Don Ross section, but I suppose I should do more. Then there is the humour, most of which is well out of sync with the times we live in. Max Wall, Leslie, Billy and the rest told jokes that are completely unacceptable today. Take a famous Max Miller joke. “I went for a walk along the cliffs the other day and the path was very narrow. A beautiful girl came towards me and couldn’t get past. I didn’t know whether to toss myself off or block her passage.” Now is this just a crude joke typical of its era, or is it an evil story of rape, indecent exposure and public masturbation? Twitter would certainly have something to say on the subject. Trouble is, these things actually happened. They are part of theatre history. Max DID tell those jokes, women DID dress up as men, G.H.Elliott DID black up and call himself a Coon. I have not made all this stuff up because I have some kind of agenda. Who would have thought that the broad and silly world of Music Hall entertainment would be so difficult to negotiate in 2020?
In other news, I was gratified to see that Twitter nuisance Aidan Comerford had issued an abject apology to John Boyne after accusing him of cis privilege and misgendering in the title of his 2019 kids’ book My Brother’s Name is Jessica. If her name is Jessica she can’t be anyone’s brother, raved Comerford, because transwomen are women. I’m not Boyne’s biggest fan, but it did strike me that there wasn’t similar outrage over his racial appropriation in writing about a Jewish child in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. It seems the death camps are a triviality beside the enormity of getting a fictional person’s gender ‘wrong.’