The Secret Theatre of Suburbia: Identity and Roleplay in Wilkie Collinsâ€™s <em>Basil</em>
AbstractVictorian popular novelist Wilkie Collins was, like many other writers of the period, fascinated with the stage. Amongst the literal dramatic activities that he engaged in, Collins was, for example, a keen amateur actor, and he regularly wrote theatrical reviews. This essay seeks to contextualise Collinsâ€™s knowledge of acting alongside his depiction of the London suburbs in Basil, his 1852 novel of modern life. In this text, Collinsâ€™s presentation of the city as a kind of theatre is prominently established in a key scene where he describes domestic unrest within the imaginary suburban location of Hollyoake Square as â€˜the secret theatre of homeâ€™. While Collinsâ€™s evocation of the theatrical metaphor to superimpose urban with theatrical space is effective in augmenting the novelâ€™s central theme of identity, I demonstrate with close attention to conventions of the popular mid-nineteenth-century stage how Collins takes this further. Developing recent criticism that has considered Collins as an urban writer, I argue London and its surrounding suburbs are, for Collins, a site of roleplay, which serves to underscore the theme of identity that is central to his work and address anxieties relating to identity and selfhood therein.