Beyond the Binary

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Rowdy Dowdy Boys and Saucy Seaside Girls

Rowdy Dowdy Boys and Saucy Seaside Girls premiered at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre, Canterbury, on 29 September 2022.

About the show

The performance-lecture is a playful interweaving of academic lecture, music hall and stand-up comedy. It is inspired by the uncatalogued material discovered in the Max Tyler Music Hall and David Drummond Pantomime collections at the University of Kent’s Special Collections and Archives.


During 2022, a gender-diverse team of public researchers, students, archivists, creative practitioners, and academics explored these collections as part of Beyond the Binary: Performing Gender Then and Now. As well as asking what the collections can tell us about attitudes towards gender expression in the past, our questions and conversations made space for exploring experiences and understandings of gender in the present.

Rowdy Dowdy Boys and Saucy Seaside Girls was our performative response to the people, songs and stories discovered in the archive, and to our own experience of working with this material. This first performance was both an end and a beginning: sharing our findings from the project, and looking forward to how the performance will evolve from here. You can help us shape the performance going forwards by sharing your comments, thoughts and feedback via this audience survey.

The Material

The majority of the material shown in the show can be found in the David Drummond and Max Tyler collections within Special Collections and Archives at the University of Kent. Additional images include:

‘Peg Woffington as Sir Harry Wildair’ in The Constant Couple’, print from a painting by William Hogarth, [n.d] (Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

‘Ann Spranger Barry (née Street) as Sir Harry Wildair in The Constant Couple’ by James William Dodd, 1777 (Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

’Hannah Snell’ by John Faber Jr. after Richard Phelps, 1750 (National Portrait Gallery).

For more information on specific images used please get in touch.

Creative Team

Rowdy Dowdy Boys and Saucy Seaside Girls was introduced by Prof. Helen Brooks, project lead and was co-performed and presented by Dr Oliver Double, project co-investigator. Both Helen and Olly are based in the School of Arts at the University of Kent, where Helen is Professor of Cultural and Creative History and Olly is Reader in Drama. Their research interests span popular performance, gender, and co-produced / collaborative research.

The performance was co-presented and performed by the non-binary folk duo, LunatraktorsLunatraktors are a queer / noxnbinary trans ‘broken folk’ act. Their transdisciplinary work moves between archival and performance research, combing traditional material with original compositions, costume, texts, recordings, objects, video and installation. They draw inspiration from multiple genres, including clowning, cabaret, performance art, flamenco, and British folk. Features include: British Museum, V&A, Turner Contemporary, RCA, Goldsmiths, M MagazineMOJO, British Music Collection, EFDSS.

The performance also features comedian Mark Thomas.


Thanks go to Karen Brayshaw (project co-investigator), Beth Astridge, and all the team in Special Collections and Archives for being wonderful partners.

Thank you also to all the members of the Beyond the Binary research team for helping us surface these stories, and for sharing your ideas and input. In particular thanks to: Liz, Freddie Anderson, Adele Clark, Deanna Cornhill-Demetriou, Ruth Donaldson, Thomas Fallais, Holly Foskett, Jess Harding, Soph Jackson, Louis James, Natalie Murphy, Jess Songer, Charlotte Storey and Chrissy Swain.

Finally, thank you to all the team at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre for supporting the production.