During today’s lecture and presentations, I found our discussion surrounding music halls very thought provoking.
Firstly, the general idea of music halls and their function in society was startling to learn. As Helena pointed out in her presentation, music halls were considered a moral and socially accepted version of a brothel. This was due to the fact that women in the performing arts were still considered frowned upon. I see it as both a positive and negative artistic development. It’s positive because the music hall bridged the gender gap in performance, allowing women to practice the craft and promote the artistic community. However, it’s also negative because it provided a niche environment in which a woman’s identity was capitalized and the male gaze was promoted. Due to these opposing effects on society, I have mixed feelings toward the development of the music hall.
Next, I want to address the portrait of “The Old Bedford Music Hall,” by Walter Sickert. Helena featured this in her presentation. This image is telling of the gender dynamic within a hall, highlighting the concept of the male gaze, furthering my mixed feelings towards the hall. I also found it interesting that there were mirrors set up around the stage to reflect the audience. As Helena described in her presentation, the mirrors made the audience appear more full and added an element of mystique to the show. I believe this to be a great marketing tactic – a fuller audience makes you seem more in demand, which usually increases ticket sales. And adding mystique makes the show more alluring, drawing in more (probably male) customers. I think it would be interesting to research accounts of women who performed at music halls, and learn what their opinion was on the gender dynamic and hypersexualization of the stage.