Children and Youth of the Empire: Tales of Transgression and Accommodation

  • Gillian Arrighi
  • Victor Emeljanow
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)


During the first decade of the twentieth century theatrical troupes that comprised child performers were a feature of the transnational touring routes throughout Australasia and “the East,” as the vast territory north of Australia to Shanghai, and west to the subcontinent of India was colloquially termed. Often referred to as “lilliputian” or “juvenile” companies this type of performance was a phenomenon particular to the historical moment, the result of interwoven strands of empire, culture, and modernizing progress. As we shall see, most of the young performers were engaged in Australia. Quite apart from comic operas, pantomimes, variety, and burlesque, these troupes also transmitted intangible yet reaffirming ideas about youth, and empire, cleverness, and the future. Audiences with a predilection for the bright and precocious young emissaries from the outer reaches of the Empire sustained the existence of these troupes for three decades; the highest density occurred during the years 1900–1910. With itineraries that sometimes included South Africa and Canada, the Empire (as distinct from “the East”) constituted their geographic range.


Opus Company News Report Moral Panic Entertainment Industry Parliamentary Debate 
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© Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian Arrighi
  • Victor Emeljanow

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