Achurch, Janet (1864–1916)

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Achurch, Janet (1864–1916)

English actress. Born in Lancashire, England, on January 17, 1864; died on September 11, 1916; descended from an old acting family; great granddaughter of Achurch Ward, who managed the Theatre Royal in Manchester; married Charles Charrington (an actor).

"She was a feminist before her time," wrote Sheridan Morley of Janet Achurch in The Great Stage Stars. The first English actress to play Ibsen, Achurch won acclaim as Nora in A Doll's House in 1899. Elizabeth Robins recalled the shock of seeing Achurch, decked out in the shabby but pretty "clothes of Ibsen's Nora," breaking the then unspoken theatrical rule that "an actress invariably comes on in new clothes, unless she is playing a beggar." The unstagey effect of the entire production, writes Robins, made the play "less like a play than like a personal meeting—with people and issues that seized us and held us, and wouldn't let go." Soon after, Achurch formed her own company and toured with the play in Australia, India, and America. Considered a genius by George Bernard Shaw, Achurch was cast in the title role of his Candida as well as in the role of Cecily Waynflete in his Captain Brassbound's Conversion. Her promise, however, gave way to morphine, cocaine, a rocky marriage, and a financially incompetent husband. Departing from the stage at 49, Janet Achurch died at age 52.


Morley, Sheridan. The Great Stage Stars. London: Angus & Robertson, 1986.