Performing the Archive: Wild Laughter and the Work of Sidelong Glance


Eleanor Lybeck, University of Oxford

Rosie Lavan, Trinity College Dublin

For four years, Eleanor Lybeck and Rosie Lavan have been collaborating on a research-led performance project called Wild Laughter, which examines the lives and legacies of the nineteenth-century stage clown and patter baritone Albert James. Albert, who performed with the original D’Oyly Carte company, made his name in Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas. In this performance seminar, Lybeck and Lavan explain how they have combined critical and creative approaches to a figure who is not only the subject of their research, but also their great-grandfather.

Drawing on techniques and ideas from life-writing, biography and genealogy, testing the function and effects of literary and popular allusion, and seeking both seriously and playfully to exhibit and animate cultural history, Wild Laughter uses the process of collaborative performance as research, and offers it as criticism. The seminar will combine extracts from the performance with analysis of the project and its motivations, and discussion of the archival sources on which it is based, including items held in the British Library, the D’Oyly Carte archives, and private collections. It will also consider the wider interests and ambitions of Sidelong Glance, the production company Lybeck established in 2010 and now co-directs with Lavan.

The aim of this session is to explore with colleagues how collaborative performance might be used effectively in teaching and research; how archival material in public and private collections might be brought to life in imaginative display; and how the obscurities of literary and cultural history have much to offer us.

Friday 7th July, 9.30