The performance of protest: the 1889 dock strike on and off the stage
For many working people in the East End of London the late 1880s was a time of antagonistic industrial relations, frequently leading to open conflict with employers and authority. Many events, such as the strike of Bryant and May match girls in 1888 and the 1889 Dockers Strike, are remembered as important moments in labour history. Given that most East End theatres had predominantly working-class audiences, it is reasonable to suppose that such turbulent and significant contests would be reflected on their stages. In this chapter I test this hypothesis by examining the repertoire of the area's theatres and music halls to establish how managements responded to the issue during and after the 1889 Dock Strike. I consider whether the institutions dramatise the conflict of capital and labour in melodramas and pantomimes and whether they engage with events in other ways. I then look at the importance of performativity to the strike itself with a particular focus on the processions. In these activities the street becomes a site of political theatre.