The celebrated British Shakespearean actor, Edmund Kean, died in 1833 in Richmond where, in the last years of his life, he had managed the local theatre. At St Mary Magdalene there is a floor plaque marking his grave and also a wall plaque.
Professor Michael Gaunt FRSAMD, Chair of The Society for Theatre Research, will talk about Edmund Kean, considered by many to be the greatest actor of the nineteenth century.
Kean began as a country actor and in his early years lived through periods of severe deprivation. Success came in 1814 at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane when he acted Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
Following this, despite many challengers, he became unrivalled as a tragedian and his great success twice took him to America. Eventually scandal intruded into his life, seriously damaging his career, while at the same time his health deteriorated as a result of hard living. In the closing years of his life he was manager of the old Richmond Theatre and lived in the adjacent house, where in 1833 he died aged 46.
Michael Gaunt began his professional life as an actor. Mid-career, in 1983, he was invited to become principal of the Guildford School of Acting – GSA, where he remained for 12 years. He was then principal of the Birmingham School of Speech & Drama until 2002. His special interest is in the English and American actors who starred on both sides of the Atlantic in the first half of the nineteenth century. He is Chair of The Society for Theatre Research and was convenor for the conference Theatre in the Regency Era: Plays, Performance, Practice 1795-1843, held at Cambridge in July 2016.