Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Kenneth Cranham reads from Andrew McConnell Stott's account of the life of one of the world's most famous clowns, Joseph Grimaldi, who became a superstar of Georgian pantomime.

The two-year-old Joseph Grimaldi is propelled onto the stage at Sadler's Wells by his ruthless, ballet master father, the Signor. The infant Joe enters the somewhat sordid and perilous world of 18th-century theatre, where he is drilled daily in the arts of mime, acrobatics and buffoonery. When the Signor finally dies of the syphilis that has threatened his sanity for decades, the nine-year-old clown Joe is forced to become breadwinner for the Grimaldi family.

Abridged by Viv Beeby.

Release date:

15 minutes

Last on

Tue 8 Dec 2009 00:30

Sign up for the BBC Books Newsletter


A weekly roundup of readings, author interviews and special picks from the BBC archives

4 Stories

4 Stories

Exceptional readings and dramas from 4 Stories.

Sample our books and authors Clip Collection

Clips of Books Content

Interviews, previews and reviews

More from Books at the BBC

Books at BBC logo

Author interviews, readings, documentaries and highlights from the BBC's books content