Tactical Agency in War Work: 'Anzac Ada' Reeve, the Soldiers' Friend'

Martina Lipton


British actor Ada Reeve (1874-1966), a star of music hall, pantomime, musical comedy and revue, lived and worked in Australia and New Zealand for extensive periods between 1897 and 1935. During World War One she entertained soldiers in camps and hospitals in Britain, Egypt, India, Australia and New Zealand, creating a public persona as an ambassador for the British Empire.In 1917-18 while touring Australia and New Zealand she used her cachet as a star performer to directly appeal to audiences to donate funds for the Anzac Club and Buffet for Diggers on leave in London. This paper examines how Reeve’s specific choice of philanthropic work on and off the theatre stage, fund-raising which saved the almost insolvent Anzac Club and Buffet, earned her the accolade of ‘Anzac Ada’. Her choice of philanthropy strategically worked to augment her identity as a transnational popular theatre star to create a personality that was proclaimed through shared community values and practices, and reframed her as an imperial star and ‘the soldiers’ friend’.

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303