This work begins to fill a gap in theatre studies: the lack of any comprehensive study of 19th-century theatre audiences. Jim Davis and Victor Emeljanow focus on London from 1840, immediately prior to the deregulation of theatres, to 1880, when the Metropolitan Board of Works assumed responsibility for their licensing. They concentrate chapter by chapter on seven representative theatres from four areas: the Surrey Theatre and the Royal Victoria to the south, the Whitechapel Pavilion and the Britannia Theatre to the east, Sadler's Wells and the Queen's (later the Prince of Wales's) to the north, and Drury Lane to the west. Davis and Emeljanow thoroughly examine the composition of London's 1840-1880 theatre audiences, their behaviour, and their attendance patterns by looking at topography, social demography, police reports, playbills, autobiographies and diaries, newspaper accounts, economic and social factors as seen in census returns, maps and transportation data, and the managerial policies of each theatre.
In addition to assimilating an incredible amount of information efficiently, coherently, and entertainingly, the authors explode the myths created by such powerful contemporary commentators as Charles Dickens to show that Victorian theatre audiences were extremely diverse and that London audiences were far more mobile socially and physically than previous accounts have implied.