Travesti

A dramatic reconstruction of the life of Charlotte Charke, and her relationship with her father, Colley Cibber.

Although largely forgotten today, one man stood out in the theatre of the early eighteenth century: Colley Cibber.  Rising from apprentice actor to become (like David Garrick some 30 years later) actor-manager in charge of Drury Lane, Cibber was actor, author, playwright and celebrity.  Through his ability to flatter, cajole, and ingratiate himself with the rich and powerful, Cibber eventually rose to become Poet Laureate.  But his talent for hypocrisy and self-promotion was never inherited by his youngest daughter, Charlotte, who despite following in her father’s theatrical footsteps, insisted on ploughing her own furrow, and flying in the face of his conventional sensibilities.

Charlotte became notorious not only for playing male travesti parts on the stage, but for carrying her cross-dressing into her private life.  Suspicions about her unconventional sexual behaviour, together with her increasingly flagrant parodies of her famous father, led Cibber to disown her.  Cut off from her chosen profession, and the love and support of a family, Charlotte (with her daughter Kitty) was condemned to a hand to mouth existence for the rest of her life, and eventually died in poverty.

The comic and tragic events of Charlotte's life - her defiance of convention in the face of her father's embarrassment and anger, and her inevitable fall from his favour - are played out against a sometimes surreal interpretation of the eighteenth century.

At the heart of this amusing and highly theatrical play is the fundamental question: which path brings the greater reward?  Conformity or outrage?  Hypocrisy or integrity?  Duty or love?

 

Travesti is published by Jasper Publishing Ltd.

© Nigel Holloway 2016