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My play about Philip Astley is starting to take shape.
It’s an interesting process! The research comes first - the reading, the facts, the timeline. The sorting of differing versions of history!
Then - pick a character. Philip Astley was a powerful personality who set many precedents. He was quick to seize opportunities. He was determined and decisive. He was single-minded in pursuing his aims. All qualities familiar to anyone who knows the circus proprietors of today.
Those traits meant he didn’t always agree with those he worked with. Some developed their own agendas. Some became highly critical of his behaviour, since it crossed their own purpose. Some promoted their own aims by attacking Astley.
So when we read of this one who ‘worked with’ Philip Astley, or this other who ‘set up on his own account’, we must read between the lines. Sometimes Astley’s irresistible force met an immovable object -- and those conflicts between larger-than-life characters bring the early days of the circus vividly to life.
The circus - from its beginnings, always fascinating.