Saturday 29 April 2023

Book Review: Death in the Theatre by Chris Wood (Non-Fiction/History)

Title: Death in the Theatre
Author: Chris Wood
Publisher: Pen & Sword History
Publication Date: 30 July 2023
Pages: 224
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Non-Fiction/History
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Britain’s theatrical wonderland has been a cornerstone of culture for centuries, delighting and thrilling audiences with an assemblage of exhilarating spectacles. Beyond the trodden boards, and tucked neatly behind the curtain however, lies a catalogue of real life destruction and grisly murder that our greatest tragedians would surely be proud to have presided over. Tread the bloodied boards of Britain’s theaters and witness the deathly dramas that have played out so dramatically within them.

Death in the Theatre collects an astonishing selection of startling tragedies from Britain’s throng of theaters. There is something especially staggering when the player exits life on their adorned stage, and yet, with this by no means an infrequent occurrence, death has made many a fearful cameo appearance – stalking the stalls and grimly reaping the galleries in its macabre and relentless fashion.

In 1910 a strange midnight tragedy was enacted in a London theater, where the brutal murder of an elderly stage carpenter prompted huge excitement among the theater-going world and indeed wider public.

How did a children’s magic show descend into such unspeakable horror that would leave 183 youngsters dead in a Sunderland theater, their tiny bodies brutally laid out in the dress circle for the bleakest of identity parades?

Learn of outrageous tragedy such as the young man mauled to death by a lion in a Gloucester theater, and the unfortunate victim killed in the Dumfries Theatre Royal – quite literally – by the limelight.


Death in the Theatre was a fun read highlighting some of the extreme and bizarre deaths that have taken place in the theatre over the last three hundred years or so. I liked the way the collection of tales was structured and the book was just the right length to hold my interest throughout. This is a history book that will appeal to theatergoers or those interested in the history of theatre. It gets 4 stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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