(This article appeared in the Guardian, 1/1/11.)
Theatre, Robert Tanitch remarks in his riotously enjoyable new book, has never been more popular than it was in the 19th century. There have been many thorough and illuminating accounts of the period – from M Willson Disher and Michael Booth, among others – but none quite so vivid or as evocative as this irresistible compendium of the foibles and passing glories of the stage. His method has been to assemble "an illustrated record, year by year, decade by decade, day by day", of the theatrical transactions of an entire century. He quotes from the newspapers of the day, from diaries and memoirs and letters, and he furnishes superb visual back-up from Westminster city archives, much of it never previously published.