Popular Entertainment (Theatre, Stage and Screen)

Medieval Period (500-1500)

  • Mystery and Morality Play: These types of theatrical performances were popular and often had religious undertones, often organised and performed by local guilds.
  • Mummers plays: Traditional folk plays performed by troupes known as mummers or guisers, often around holidays like Christmas and Easter.
  • Minstrels and Jesters: Provided entertainment in courts and castles, through music, storytelling, acrobatics, and other performances.

Early Modern Period (1500-1750)

  • Birth of Commercial Theatre: The ‘purpose-built’ theatres like Globe became popular, often showcasing Shakespeare’s works.
  • Rise of the Masque: Courtly, often elaborate performances incorporating poetry, dance and music, popular with the upper class.
  • Restoration Comedy: Known for its wit, satire, and sexual explicitness, these comedies flourished in the period after the English Civil War.

Industrial Revolution (1750-1900)

  • Penny Gaffs: Cheap forms of popular theatre, often showcasing sensationalist and melodramatic plays for the working classes.
  • Emergence of Music Halls: Offering variety acts, these became popular places for people to relax and be entertained.
  • Pantomimes and Comic Operas: Became popular, often having satirical or political undertones.

20th Century

  • Cinema’s Golden Age: Movies became one of the main forms of entertainment, with great advances in film-making techniques.
  • Musical Revue and Revival of Musical Theatre: Burst of creative productivity in musical theatre with shows adopting more complex, character-driven narratives.
  • Arrival of Television: Changed the way people consumed drama and entertainment, with the ability to watch performances at home.

21st Century

  • Digital Media and Streaming Services: An increase in popularity due to the easy access of movies, TV series and plays at any time from home.
  • Revival of Live Theatres: Despite the digital surge, live performances in theatres have seen a resurgence in popularity.
  • Reality TV and Talent Shows: Have become a significant part of popular culture, showcasing ‘real life’ situations or competitions.