It’s always fun when the internet conspires to unite your academic and non-academic obsessions. I’m currently writing a draft of a chapter that might eventually be about Ellen Terry’s 1888 performance as Lady Macbeth. The chapter will also cover Mrs Patrick Campbell’s interpretation of the same role. When not doing this, I’m still nursing that bloody cold, and/or watching Mark Gatiss’s amazing documentaries A History of Horror (until the BBC gives me MORE SHERLOCK and/or ITV Player starts to work on my Mac, there’s little choice).
Campbell played Lady M a decade after Terry, and having referred to Campbell’s leading man as JFR all the way through my 12,000 words of notes, when it came to writing up, I couldn’t remember what the hell he was actually called. John, Johnston, Johnson or Johnstone Forbes-
Robertson? So I googled (this is what E., a whopping three years my senior, means when she says I use technology ‘completely differently’ to her. When she doesn’t know something, she ponders then finds a book).
His name, not very interestingly, was Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, but HIS SON, John Forbes-
Robertson, who ONLY DIED IN 2008, was an actor in the later Hammer House of Horror films! It’s amazing to think that, until recently, we were only a generation away from JFR. Admittedly, John Forbes-Robertson only appeared in the dreadful Hammer films (e.g. Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires), but I like theatrical/cinematic collisons, and am always interested in what happens to supposedly ‘high art’ performers (John Forbes-Robertson came from theatrical royalty and had a respectable stage and TV career) when they collide with an (albeit recently) schlocky, cult or kitsch format. ….what can I say, I watched a lot of Carry On films as a child.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.