Theatre in Melbourne 1882

"News has been received from Creswick that the Australian Gold Mine has been flooded. Forty men were at work when the outburst of water occurred; of these 14 escaped, and 26 are still underground. There is now 40ft of water in the main shaft, and the pumps available are quite inadequate to cope with the task of pumping out the mine. Arrangements are being made for additional pumps and engine power. Faint hopes are entertained, however, that those in the mine will succeed in escaping. The scene at the mouth of the mine when the disaster was made known was most distressing."

(Melbourne 12th December 1882 by Telegram)

The Theatre Royal. Courtesy State Library of Victoria

The Theatre Royal, Melbourne


"We found the Theatre Royal at be a large, dusty, primitive building, with poor accommodation for the audience, and still more wretched arrangements for the actors behind the scenes. The scenic department, so far as the painting is concerned, was excellent, so was the furniture of the stage; but oh! the disorder, the confusion, and the mess. No expense seemed to be spared but such disorder, besides entailing waste, must engender lack of discipline in other departments."

Dion Boucicault on the Theatre Royal, Melbourne.


In 1882 J.C. Williamson, Arthur Garner and George Musgrove formed a partnership ("The Triumvirate") controlling the Theatre Royal and Princess Theatre in Melbourne and the Sydney Theatre Royal and Adelaide Theatre Royal. This was instituted in May and this marked the beginning of the mighty Williamson theatre organisation. For over eighty years it was to be the principal purveyor of theatrical entertainment in Australia and New Zealand. The first production by the Triumvirate was Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Patience' which opened at the Theatre Royal on July 1st. For more on what was happening in Melbourne during 1882 click on a month below.

January February
March April
May June
July August
September October
November December



'Gulliver' continued most of the month and saw a return to the Victorian stage of the burlesque actress, Carry Nelson.

Reviewing Carry Nelson the Argus said "we can write with unqualified gratification. The hearty reception which greeted her appearance upon the stage must have convinced her, if she ebver doubted it, that long as was the interval which had taken place since her last appearance she was not by any means forgotten. Miss Carry Nelson left the colony a bright and clever girl, full of promise, but with undeveloped powers. She returns to it with that promise more than fulfilled, and with her splendid gifts of voice, personal attractions, and histrionic ability ripened into maturity."

'Gulliver' finished on January 27th.

On Saturday the 28th Burdett Howe and Julia Hayward (Mrs Howe) and company opened for a short season with 'The Chain, or the Rabbi's Son', written for Howe by E. Manuel.

"Mr. Howe exhibits a good deal of energy amd melodramatic excitement as the Rabbi's son, and does not appear to have improved during the years he has been absent from us, but has been stilted and stagey." (Argus)

Princess Theatre

'Dick Whittington' continued throughout the month.

"The scenery has never been surpassed, if ever equaled, in this hemisphere. The mediaeval pictures of London, the panorama, and the transformation scene are works of high art, in which details are carefully studied, and every effect calculated to please the eye or gratify the mind is brought out with a vivid reality that is praiseworthy and excellent." (Age)

The pantomime finished on January 27th.

Opera House

'Olivette' played successfully the entire month of January.

"Amongst the sunordinate parts pretty little bits, both for speaking and singing are freely distributed, and the manner in which they are rendered shows better in this than any preceding piece under the present management how good is the material of which the rank and file is composed." (Argus)

Theatre Royal

'Dick Whittington' continued to attract audiences throughout the month.



The Burdett Howe and Julia Haywood season continued. On February 4th the company played 'The Sisters'.

"Miss Hayward has the best part in the piece, and throws herself into it with laudable earnestness, infusing into it a certain amount of vagabondish humour, making up exceedingly well as the street urchin, and carrying the sympathies of the audience entirely with her." (Argus)

This was followed on February 11th by 'Shamus na Leena'.

This "evidently hit the taste of the audience, for the applause with which it was received was not merely frequent but uproarious, and the recalls were numerous and also boisterous in their heartiness. Mr. Burdett Howe is seen and heard to unusual advantage in the character of Shamus na Leena, which he plays with an abundance of spirit and humour." (Argus)

On Saturday 25th the drama 'Michael Strogoff' opened. This was a dramatisation by Basil Henry.

"The part of Michael Strogoff was played in a very powerful manner by Mr. Burdett Howe, who during the night received several special marks of approval at the hands of the audience." (Argus)

Theatre Royal

The pantomime finally finished on February 3rd.

On Saturday 4th Grattan Riggs was engaged for a short season. First was 'The Shaughraun' with Emilie Fenwick.

Emilie Fenwick's "voice is clear, distinct, and musical, although on Saturday night she was scarcely heard to the best advantage, partly on account of a little timidly natural to a first appearance and partly owing to the irrespressible enthusiasm of the gallery." (Argus)

On February 11th there was a double bill consisting of 'Handy Andy' and 'The Irish Emigrant'.

"Mr. Grattan Riggs, by means of his own ability, contrived in the character of the blundering hero to keep the audience in good humour and amused." (Argus on Handy Andy)

This was followed a week later by 'The Irish Detective' in which the artist played seven characters. On February 25th 'Shin Fane' was produced. The artist here played five characters.

Grattan Riggs Grattan Riggs (1835-1899) was born in Buffalo, New York. He established himself at various theatres in New York. He arrived in Australia in 1880 and was remembered for his comic Irish parts. He continually travelled Australia until his death in Tasmania.

Princess Theatre

On January 28th Fred Marshall inaugurated his regular season with Sterling Coyne's 'Everybody's Friend', which he renamed 'The Major'. The cast also included G.S. Titheridge, Frank Cates and Annie Taylor. This was succeeded on February 4th by 'Crutch and Toothpick', by G.R. Sims.

"The part of Felix Featherley fits Mr. Titheridge almost as well as if it had been written for him, and he plays it with an ease, a savoir faire, and a happy mixture of domestic languor, and extra-domestic activity." (Argus)

The last night of 'Crutch and Toothpick' was on Friday 24th. On Saturday 25th there was for the first time in Melbourne the latest American comedy success 'The Professor', by W.H. Gillette.

"The dialogue, which is of very light description, is cleverly written, and many of the scenes are contrived with a fine sense of humour, which the excellent acting of the company brought well to the surface."(Argus)

Opera House

The final performance of 'Olivette' was on February 11th. The company then headed to Adelaide.

The Mendelssohn Quintette Club with Cora R. Miller played a mixed classical programme for a week commencing on Tuesday the 14th. For the final Saturday performance on the 25th.

The Argus said "The audience was composed largely of those who had heard the Quintette Club frequently. It may be taken for granted that these enjoyed themselves as connoisseurs, knowing what to expect - while it may be said of the others who heard the Quintette for the first time, that they regretted not having heard them sooner."

The Quintette would make an occasional appearance at the Athenaeum Hall and the Town Hall during the next couple of weeks.
The Opera house then closed until mid March.

MARCH 1882


'Michael Strogoff' continued to play to successful houses. The last night of the season was on Monday the 13th with a special benefit double bill consisting of 'Grinaldi, or the life of an actress' and 'Black-Eyed Susan'.

The Burdett Howe company then headed for New Zealand.

On Tuesday the 14th the theatre's own comedy company opened a short season. This featured G.B.W. Lewis. The opening production was 'The Big Bonanza', by Paul Forestier. This was the first performance in Australia.

"There is nothing new in the materials relied on by the dramatist for his effects, but they are used in a workmanlike manner, and the result is an eminently actable play." (Argus)

After a week 'The Big Bonanza' made way for a series of double bills. [Editor's note: G.B. W. Lewis was the manager of the original Princess Theatre when it opened in 1854 as Alley's Amphitheatre.]

On Monday March 27th the Montague Turner Grand Opera season commenced. This featured soprano Annis Montague and tenor Charles Turner both making their first appearance in Melbourne. The opening production was Balfe's popular 'The Bohemian Girl'.

"The conditions under which Mr. Charles Turner and Miss Annis Montague now appear before the Melbourne public are altogether in their favour, and it may be at once said that their success was not only complete, but brilliant." (Argus)

Theatre Royal

The pantomime finally finished on February 3rd.

On March 4th Grattan Riggs appeared in 'The Mysteries of New York'.

"The plot is incoherent, the situations are extravagantly improbable, and often without motive, and there is but one naturally drawn character in the play - that of the Irish coachman." (Argus)

The play only ran a week with the season finishing on Saturday March 11th.

On Monday 13th there was a special engagement and a first appearance of Mrs Walter Hill. She opened in 'Lancashire Lass'. On the 17th (St Patrick's Day) there was a single performance of 'Donnybrook Fair' and on March 18th 'Comedy of Errors'.

"The twin brothers Antipholus were represented by Mr. W.J. Holloway and Mr. Chas. Holloway, whose similarity in face, figure, and voice is so remarkable that the audience often could not determine whether it was the twin of Ephesus or of Syracuse that was on the stage." (Argus)

The short season came to an end on the 24th.

On Saturday 25th George Rignold made his first stage appearance since his return from England. His opening production was 'Youth', by Paul Merritt and Augustus Harris.

"Great care has been taken with the setting, and the large stage of the Theatre Royal is well adapted for these full-length effects, which have no front scenes to mar their completeness." (Argus)

Princess Theatre

'The Professor' proved so successful it ran all March.

Opera House

On Monday the 13th of March the Australian Juvenile Opera Bouffe Company of eighty young performers opened for a very short season of 'H.M.S. Pinafore'.

On the 25th of March a comedy season commenced featuring Wybert Reeve and his company. The opening production was a Melbourne first. This was 'The Money Spinner', by Arthur Pinero, featuring Blanche Stammers (Mrs Arthur Garner) making her first appearance on stage since her return from Europe. "The play is unsensational in character, its chief merit being found in the story which is told, and which has simply to be intelligently worked out to at once engage the interest of the audience. The plot has considerable claim to originality, and the fact of its being improbable is but a small objection." (Argus)

APRIL 1882


The Montague Turner's production of the popular 'Bohemian Girl' finished on April 3rd. 'Lucia di Lammermoor' opened on Tuesday the 4th. This was followed later in the week by 'Maritana'. "In giving us a new portraiture of an old well-known dramatic part, Miss Montague has fully sustained the high favour which has been already accorded to her Bohemian Girl and Bride of Lammermoor." (Argus) Later in the month saw a return of 'Lucia di Lammermoor' and a new production of 'Il Trovatore'.

Theatre Royal

'Youth' remained on stage all month playing to packed houses. Newspaper ads referred to the magnificent scenery, the glorious furniture and the grand massing of two hundred soldiers.

Princess Theatre

The last night of 'The Professor' was on Friday April 7th. On Saturday the 8th the comedy 'Jeames', by F.C. Burnand, was mounted. Along with Frederick Marshall this featured Sterling Whyte and Ethel Adelle.

"Mr. Marshall's presentation of the varied phases in the life of Jeames was another indication of that gentleman's versatility." (Argus)

The final week of the season consisted of repeats of some of the more popular productions. The long season finally concluded on Friday April 21st.
The theatre remained closed the following week.

Opera House

'The Money Spinner' finished on Friday 7th April. On the 8th there was the first Melbourne production of 'The Colonel', by F.C. Burnand.

"The comedy is so cleverly written, and the dialogue is so pointed and smart, that it cannot fail to gain very considerable popularity…the play was exceedingly well acted throughout." (Argus)

The play continued through the rest of the month.

MAY 1882


The Montague-Turner Opera Company season continued with 'Faust' opening on the 1st. A week later 'The Rose of Castile' was produced. This was followed by 'Martha' on Monday 15th. 'Mignon' played later in the month.

Opera House

On Saturday May 6th 'Money', by Lord Lytton, opened and ran for one week. "It is scarcely necessary to say that Mr. Wybert Reeve did ample justice to the popular part of Graves. His countenance did not denote the almost too intense melancholy which some actors of the part think desirable, and, for that reason, he seems more natural." (Argus) On Saturday 13th 'London Assurance', by Dion Biocucicault, was mounted. This featured the American actor Daniel H. Harkins.

"In two or three instances there had been an unfortunate assignment of parts, and the company generally did not exhibit that interest in the performance which has so far characterised them during the season… the low spirits of some of those on the stage seemed to have a depressing effect on the audience." (Argus)

This was the last week of the Wybert Reeve comedy season.
The theatre remained dark the rest of the month.

Princess Theatre

On April 29th the talented Jennie Lee made her first appearance in Australia. She opened with 'Jo' which was an adaptation by J.P. Burnett of the Charles Dickens novel 'Bleak House'. Jennie had already played this work over 3,000 times overseas and Australian audiences were eager to see this talented actress. A strong company was formed for her. These included H.R. Harwood, Maggie Knight, Eloise Juno and William Hoskins.

"It is evident that Miss Lee has studied this character from the life. When she is on the stage the illusion is complete. It is difficult to believe that she has ever been anything else than the ragged London street boy." (Argus)

'Jo' ran all May.

Jennie Lee from the  Illustrated Australian news. Jennie Lee (1848?-1930) was born in London. After her father’s death she entered the dramatic profession and first appeared on the stage at the Lyceum Theatre in 1870. In San Francisco she first appeared in 'Jo' which became her most famous role. This play ran for over a year in London. She was also popular in pantomime and toured throughout the United Kingdom, America, Australia, Africa, India and China. Her stage career continued into the 20th century.

Theatre Royal

The last performance of 'Youth' was on Friday May 5th.

Alfred Dampier and company took over the theatre on Saturday May 6th with 'Russia As It Is'. This was founded on the Jules Verne story 'The Courier of the Czar'.

"Mr. Dampier, who played Michael Strogoff, experienced a very hearty reception on making his appearance on the stage after a long absence from Melbourne. He acted the part with manly dignity, and quite realized the idea of one dominated by a set purpose which no obstacle could battle." (Argus)

The play ran a week. Next was the Conquest drama 'The Green Lanes of England' opening on Saturday May 13th. This was the first Melbourne performance of this work.

"Mr. Dampier played the part of Gentleman George. The character is well suited to Mr. Dampier's abilities, and he made a very good impression in it." (Argus)

The company played the rest of the month.

JUNE 1882

Theatre Royal

On June 3rd there commenced a short engagement by the actress Louise Pomery. The first work was 'Led Astray', by Dion Bouccault.

"Miss Pomeroy, when she came onto the stage on Saturday night, received a genuine ovation from the very large audience present. Certianly she never showed more elegance, grace, intelligence and attention to her duty than she did in this trying part which she chose to make her re-appearance in." (Argus)

This was followed the following week by 'The Lady of Lyons' a few days later 'Leah the forsaken'. Friday June 16th was the last night of the short season.

On Saturday June 17th Alfred Dampier and company returned for a short season. The production was 'Black Flag' by George Conquest and Pettitt.

"It has been put upon the stage of the Theatre Royal with considerable care and it was entirely successful in pleasing the large audience assembled on Saturday night." (Argus)

The play continued until the 28th. On the 29th there was a farewell benefit for John Hennings who was retiring after sixteen years managing the Theatre Royal. J.C. Williamson appeared in 'Kenny' and Alfred Dampier appeared in 'The Green Lanes of England'. On Friday the 30th another benefit this time consisting of 'Black Flag' (with Alfred Dampier) and 'Checkmate'.


The end of the opera season was on Saturday the 3rd. During the season fifty nine performances had been given. This included thirteen of 'Maritana', 'Bohemian Girl' (9), 'Lucia' (6), 'Faust' (6), Il Trovatore (5), 'The Rose of Castile (4) 'Martha' (3) and several single performances and benefits. The company then headed for Sandhurst.

The English actor J. Dewthurst opened the following week for a short season. First was 'Cardinal Richeli' which ran until Friday 16th. On Saturday June 17th there was a double bill consisting of 'The Merchant of Venice' and 'Katherine and Petruchio' with J. Dewthurst as Shylock and Petruchio.

"Mrs G.B.W. Lewis was an admirable Portia, and in the court scene was especially impressive." (Argus)

Later the following week saw productions of 'Hamlet' and then 'Much Ado About Nothing'. On Monday the 26th the domestic drama 'The Marriner's Compass' was mounted.

"The piece has been hurriedly put upon the stage, and the mechanical appliances did not work as satisfactory as could have been desired." (Argus)

The piece played a few performances and then was withdrawn.

The theatre then closed for extensive refurbishments.

Opera House

The theatre was closed all month and only opened for the odd benefit and the occasional production.

Princess Theatre

'Jo' finally finished on Friday 2nd of June. On Saturday the 3rd 'The Grasshopper' opened. This was an adaptation by J.P. Burnett of Meilhac and Halevy's French success 'La Cigale'. This was the first production in Australia.

"Miss Lee played with an unflagging vivacity and brightness of manner which always sustained the attention of the audience while she was on the stage." (Argus)

This played throughout the whole month.

JULY 1882

Opera House

Making her first appearance in Australia Emelie Melville and her company appeared for a season of comic opera. They opened on Saturday July 8th with Offenbach's 'La Pericole'. This featured Thomas Caselli making his first appearance in Australia. 'Girofle-Giofle' by Lecocq opened on Wednesday the 19th. This played the rest of the month.

Princess Theatre

The very successful 'The Grasshopper', with Jennie Lee and J.P. Burnett, continued to full houses. This production finally concluded after 42 performances on July 21st. On Saturday 22nd 'Where's the Cat' by James Albery was performed for the first time in Australia. The cast included Jennie Lee, J.P. Burnett, Annie Mayor and H.E. Harwood.

"The story of Where's the Cat does not pretend to contain anything more than verbal froth, and serious criticism would be out of place in noticing the production. As a rule, these productions are harmless if they are not entertaining to those who look for intellectual diversion on the stage." (Age)

[Editor's note: Annie Mayor had a short career on the stage. She made her debut in 1878 and during this present season she suffered what the papers called 'congestion of the brain'.]

The theatre then closed for extensive refurbishments.

Theatre Royal

The theatre was reopened on July 1st for the first time under the management of the new leesees, Williamson, Garner and Musgrove. Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Patience' received its first Melbourne performance. The cast included Howard Vernon, Signor Riccardi, Signor Verdi, Alice Rees and Fanny Liddiard.

"Lavishly mounted with exquisite scenery by Messrs Gordon and Hennings, and performed by a most efficient company, Patience should enjoy a run of almost unexampled duration, as in addition to the elaborate style of its production it contains within itself every essential of popularity. Miss Alice Rees sustains the title role, making the character as natural as the drolleries of the conception admit of, and giving to it an amount of prominence without any of the exaggeration that could easily be introduced, and indeed for which almost tempting opportunities are constantly occurring. Miss Navaro's lady Jane is excellent throughout, and her wonderful creation in the matter of the aesthetic costume claims special recognition. Her violoncello scene in the forest glade was genuinely funny and produced roars of laughter." (Age)

Fanny Liddiard. Coutesy of State Library Victoria. Fanny Liddiard (1864?-??) was an Australian actress who made her first stage appearance as Kate in 'The Pirates of Penzance' for J.C. Williamson in 1881. She became a leading actress during the 1880s. In the early 1890s she travelled to America, joining the Tivoli Opera Company in San Francisco. She returned in 1897 but a year later she left for England where she married a McLeod settling in Edinburgh for a short period. In 1908 she returned brieftly to Australia where she organised a juvenile company to tour India joining up with her brother Tom who had theatrical interests there.


Opera House

On Saturday August 5th 'Les Cloches de Corneville', by Planchette, opened.

"Miss Melville as Serpolette played her part with ladylike grace that is always such a pleasing feature of her acting, though in so doing the individuality of the actress rather than the special characteristics of the rOle were as a consequence preeminent." (Age)

The final appearance by the Emelie Melville company was on August 18th. For the rest of the month the theatre remained dark except for the occasional lecturer.

Princess Theatre

On Saturday the 5th 'The Ticket-of-Leave Man', by Tom Taylor, opened. Jennie Lee took the role of Sam Willoughby for the first time.

"There is no doubt that from one point of view Miss Lee's rendering of the part is exceptionally clever, being very real and life-like. To speak plainly, it would have been better if Miss Lee had not appeared in the part; for the best that can be said of it is that it was simply a variety hall entertainment, and, as such, clever." (Age)

Audiences started to dwindle so on Tuesday the 15th Jennie Lee ever popular 'Jo' was staged as a stop gape for a few performances. On Saturday the 19th the hit 'The Grasshopper' returned for the final week of the season which concluded on Thursday the 24th with a benefit for the artist.

Saturday 26th saw the first production in Australia of the English and American successful nautical and operatic extravaganza 'Billie Taylor', by Stephens and Solomon. This was produced by a special arrangement with Richard D'Oyly Carte in London. The cast included Nellie Stewart, Ida Osborne, Howard Vernon and Edwin Kelly. New costumes had been especially manufactured in London and imported just for this production. Reviews on the work were not kind.

The Age said that 'Billie Taylor' "can only be described as the result of a fertile attempt to copy in the most bare-faced manner Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's unique operatic compositions. The material with which libretto and score have been constructed is quite devoid of anything which suggests originality."

Theatre Royal

'Patience' finished its successful run on Friday August 11th.
On the 12th 'The Pirates of Penzance' saw its first revival since its original first production. The cast included Howard Vernon, H.T. Harrison, John F. Forde, Fanny Liddiard and Andrea Navarro. Reviews were not that positive.

"Miss Navarro apparently had no command of voice, though she played her part with intelligence. Mr Forde's Sergeant Murphy was a good effort at carrying out Mr. Williamson's Melbourne creation of that character, and as such deserves some praise. Mr. Harrison, as Frederick, was probably permitted to sustain that important rôle from the fact that he possesses a voice of tenor quality. In other respects it is difficult to see why he should be brought into any prominence, seeing that his acting capacity is almost nil, whilst vocally his efforts betray the fact that as a singer he has also nearly everything to learn." (Age)

The season finished on Friday the 18th.

On Saturday the 19th saw the inauguration of a new dramatic season featuring Louise Pomeroy and her company. They opened with 'Hamlet' with Louise in the title role. There were single performances of 'Romeo and Juliet' on the 24th and 'East Lynne' on the 25th.

On Saturday August 26th W.E. Sheriden appeared for the first time in Melbourne. He opened in a revival of the historical drama 'Louis XI'.

"Mr. Sheridan properly interprets the character from the drama, and in doing so he sets himself a task very difficult to complete…his performance, taken throughout, cannot be regarded otherwise than extremely clever." (Age)


The Bijou reopened its doors again on August 5th. According to the papers it had been extremely renovated, decorated, ornamented, upholstered and carpeted, from floor to ceiling'. Frederick Marshall and his comedy company presented, for the first time in Melbourne, the comedy 'Mother-in-law' by G.R. Sims.

Reviews were pleasant "It offers good scope for the exercise of those humorous powers with which Mr Marshall is so largely gifted."

On Saturday the 19th 'Forgiven' by James Albery was performed for the first time in Melbourne.

"The work is deficient in interest, whilst the dialogue and plot are, for the most part, altogether pointless." (Age)

The last night of this work was on Friday September 1st.


Opera House

On Saturday September 2nd saw the first production in Australia by the recently arrived Dunning, Wallace and Co's London Comic Opera Company. 'Boccaccio', by Suppe, was the opening work. The English translation was by R. Reece and H.B. Farnie.

"'Boccaccio' attracted an audience which filled the house in every part, and which expressed by hearty applause, by means of encores and by calling all the principals before the curtain at the time of the first and second acts, its high approval of the quality of the work and the manner in which it was presented...Amongst the new comers is Mr. T.B. Appleby, who played the part of Lambertuccio, and exhibited such large andgenial powers as a low comedian as made him at once a pronounced favourite with the whole of all, while everything is so well cared for on the stage, the excellent conductor, Mr. C. Van Ghele, has under him the most perfect orchestra now to be found in Melbourne. This latter is in itself an attraction of the highest musical value."

Among the newcomers was a recent arrival from London, the young tenor Walter H. Woodfield.

Walter Woodfield "has much to recommend him to prompt and favourable acceptance. His bearing is easy on the stage, and he delivers the words of his part distinctly and with the right accent and fair emphasis. He sings inteligently, and with good feeling, and his musical phrasing is artistic, and therefore quite satisfactory to hear." (Argus)

[Editor's note: W.H. Woodfield was born in Norfolk, England, in May 1851. After the financial crisis of 1893-4 he moved to Perth and entered into the Government service. He died there, after a long illness, in December 1899]


Frederick Marshall and his comedy company continued their season. On Saturday September 2nd saw produced the latest American success 'Needles and Pins' by Augustin Daly. This was followed on Saturday 16th by a return of 'Jeames'

"The hearty laughter and applause which followed the performance of this serio-comic production throughout showed that it has taken a firm hold on the regard of the public. Mr. Marshall's Jeames is one of his most natural impersonations." (Argus)

On the 23rd 'The Upper Crust' by Henry Bryon.

"Mr. Narshall, as Doublechick, presents to the audience a cheerful, good natured , but uncultivated old man. It is needless to say that Mr. Marshall makes the most of such a congenial part, and that every curt and awkward expression, and every ungainly gesture, is received with roars of laughter." (Argus)

Theatre Royal

W.E. Sheridan continued his season with 'King Lear' on September 2nd.

"There is no doubt that, clever as his Louis XI undoubtedly was, his effort as King Lear is greatly superior." (Age)
The Argus said that Sheridan "is an actor of great merit, worthy to rank with, if not above, the best exponents of the character who have visited Australia."

'Lear' played for two weeks followed on Saturday 16th by 'A New Way to Pay Old Debts' by Philip Massinger (1583-1640).

"It depicts the manners, speech and life of the past, while, in common with the works of Shakespeare, it contains much of the popular sentiment and practical wisdom of the present." (Age)

On the following Tuesday and Wednesday 'Richelieu', by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), was performed. [Editor's note: 'Richelieu' gave the world that memorable phrase "pursuit of the almighty dollar".] This was followed by two performances of 'Otello' and then two performances of 'Richard III'.

Reviewing Sheridan in the title role of Richard III the Argus said "Mr. Sheridan's performance of this character is not the melodramatic exaggeration which is still common on the stage, though there is enough of fire, vigour, and impulse in the later scenes to save even the admirers of rant from any feeling of disappointment."

On Tuesday 26th 'The Willow Case' was performed. This ran for three nights. There was a benefit for W.E. Sheridan on Friday the 29th.

Princess Theatre

'Billie Taylor' finished its season on Friday the 15th. The following evening Offenbach's 'La Fille du Tambour Major' was produced. The guns, swords and other arms had been especially manufactured in London for this production. The operetta played through until Septmeber 27th. On the Thursday and Friday 'Patience' made a reappearance to end the season.


Opera House

The popular 'Boccaccio' continued to full houses throughout the month.

"Miss Mitchell, as Isabella, became a quick favorite with the audience, to whom she plays cleverly, not, however, by any means obtrusively. Her style of acting has a quiet chic about it that admirably suited the rôle allotted to her." (Age)


The final night of 'Upper Crust' was on Friday 13th. On Saturday 14th 'Crutch and Toothpick', by G.R. Sims, was mounted. The Frederick Marshall season drew to a sudden close on the 20th. Frederick Marshall had become seriously ill and doctors had ordered him to immediately leave the country. [Editor's note: Marshall recovered in England and returned to Australia in March 1884 but his health deteriorated and he was sent back to England again twelve months later. He finally passed away in September 1886. Marshall arrived in Australia in 1879 and in a short time became a much admired actor.]

On Saturday 21st the Alfred Dampier company continued their season of 'No Mercy' at this theatre. This played for eight performances and was then replaced by Dampier's London success 'The Green Lanes of England'.

Theatre Royal

The Sheridan company mounted the drama 'The Courier of Lyons and the Lyons Mail' on September 30th.

"The skill of Mr. Sheridan in doubling the parts was conspicuous to everyone. (He) entirely succeeded in severing the two characters and making them stand out with their own individualities." (Age)

The final week of the Sheridan season started on Saturday 7th. There were revivals of several of the companies more popular works.

On October 14th Alfred Dampier and company returned to the theatre for six performances only of the Australian drama 'No Mercy'. This play was loosely based on 'La Morte Civille' by Pacio Giacometal.

"It would be difficult to imagine how a more unreal or unnatural story could be concocted. It sets at defiance all the first principles of fiction writing by ignoring the rules of probability, unity of thought and reasonable modes of action." (Age) "The play abounds in strong emotional scenes, naturally evolved, and expressed by simple unpremeditated language." (Argus)

The company then moved to the Bijou Theatre.

On Saturday October 21st George Rignold and his dramatic company reproduced the London success 'Youth'.

"The drama had a long run in Sydney, and the performance was marked by completeness which was to be expected under the circumstances. Misss Navarro is especially well suited to the part of the young French woman, as she is able to give the foreign accent with excitement." (Argus)
"Naturally as French is Miss Navaro's native tongue, she gave to the part all the colouring required to make clear the illusion of a French-woman speaking English with a distinctively French manner. But she did much more than this, she played the character to perfect life." (Australasian)

Princess Theatre

On Saturday 30th September saw the first appearance at this theatre of the American comedian Mr. Polk, his wife, and their dramatic company. First up was the American comedy 'The Strategist'.

Critics summed up the performers "Mr. Polk is spoken of as versatile and clever, especially in the quick change of business, whilst Mrs Polk has a flexible and highly cultivated voice, which she uses in the rendition of various songs, quite irrelevant, however, to the piece."


Opera House

After many weeks the last nights of 'Boccaccio' were announced. The final performance was on Friday November 17th. The operetta had clocked up sixty six performances. On Saturday the 18th the military comic opera 'The King's Dragoons' was mounted. The music was by John Crook and the libretto by John Wilson Jones.

"Both plot and libretto are very tame. Mr. Appleby does all that is possible with his character of a yokel; and although his vocal capacity is within narrow limits, his clever delivery and distinct utterance made his assumption of a vocal rôle more than tolerable." (Age)
"The musical composer, Mr. John Crook, is to be congratulated upon his first appearance here. His merits are that he discovers a good turn for tune and has a rich fancy and a free hand in using the resources of the orchestra. Of the artists who gave effect to this representation we need not say very much, because their individual qualities are by this time very well known."


The Alfred Dampier season continued at this theatre. On Saturday November 11th 'Jan Varo's Oath' by G.R. Sims was performed.

"Common in plot and stereotyped in characters." (Australasian)

A week later 'The Royal Pardon', by Conquest and Pettitt, was produced

This production was mounted "in a tolerably praiseworthy manner, and its performance was favorably received by the audience." (Age)

On Saturday 25th 'The Black Flag' was performed for one week. The last night of the Dampier season was on Friday December 1st.

Theatre Royal

The George Ringold season continued with the first Melbourne production of 'The Lights of London' on Saturday Nov 11th. This was a drama by G.R. Sims.

"It was placed upon the stage with a completeness of design and lavishness of display to which apparently the successes of the present day type of sensational drama are entirely due." (Age)

The play finished on Thursday the 21st with a benefit on Friday the 22nd for the widows and orphans of a recent mining catastrophe at Creswick. The theatre remained dark until Christmas.

Princess Theatre

The Polk season continued. On Saturday November 4th the comedy 'Sam'l of Posen', by G. Jessop was first performed. This was the first production in Australia.

"There is considerable merit in the piece, and, although wanting in plot, it is full of very witty observations and crisp dialogue." (Age)

The last night of 'Sam'l of Posen' was on Friday November 17th. On Saturday the 18th saw the first performance of 'The American', a comedy-drama by Geo. H. Jessop.

"In some respects not only very amusing but really clever. Mr. Polk, moreover, has a part to play which is exactly suitable to him, and fits him like a glove." (Age)

"The author has presented a singularly amiable and disinterested type of American, and there is a great deal of humour in the part, largely dependent, however, on the use of slangy expressions." (Argus) The work played into December.


Opera House

'The King's Dragoons' continued into December. On the 9th there was a revival of 'Boccaccio' by, so called, special request. This played until Christmas.

The Christmas production, opening on Boxing night, was the operetta 'Manola' by Lecocq. This was the first production in Australia. The cast featured John Wallace, T.B. Appleby, Annette Ivanova and Kate Chard.


The Christmas opera season saw a return of the Montague-Turner Grand English Opera Company. They opened on December 2nd with 'Mignon'.

"As Mignon Miss Montague labors under disadvantages which cannot but detract from the pleasure which is afforded by her charming vocalization. Mr. Turner's Wilhelm was fully acceptable as when he was seen and heard in the same rôle. It is by no means his best part, but he does his work in a manly and thorough style." (Age)
The Argus said "Miss Annie Montagne was received with long continued and most earnest applause as soon as she appeared on the scene, and this was renewed again and again throughout the evening as she made each point in a performance which was from beginning to end a perfectly intelligent and highly-finished study."

[Editor's note: the entire company had recently been involved in a terrible railroad accident while on tour in mid November. Although no lives were lost everyone seemed to suffer various injuries in some form or other.] On Thursday the 7th 'Maritana' played. This was followed by 'Faust' (13th), 'The Bohemian Girl' (15th), 'Il Trovatore' (19th) and 'Lily of Killarney' (21st). Over the Christmas period there were single performances of the operas performed throughout the season.

Princess Theatre

On December 9th the emotional drama 'The Old Love and the New', by Bronson Howard, opened. At one performance 200 Boudoir Portraits of Mrs Polk were presented to the ladies in the dress circle. The season finished on Saturday the 16th.

The Royal Opera Company opened 'La Mascotte', by Audran, on boxing night. This was the first time Melbourne audiences had seen this work. The cast included W.H. Woodfield, Edwin Kelly, Nellie Stewart and a return of Maggie Moore. Costumes had been especially imported from London.

"The appearance of Miss Maggie Moore on the stage was the signal for a loud outburst of applause, showing that during her absence she had lost none of her popularity with the Melbourne public." (Argus)

Theatre Royal

Opening on boxing night was the first Christmas pantomime to be presented by J.C. Williamson. This year it was 'Jack and the Beanstalk and See-Saw Margery Daw; or; Harlequin Man in the Moon, the Love Birds of Fairyland, and the Giant of Tel-El-Keber'.

"The principal part is assigned to Miss Maggie Oliver, whose opportunities, however, are limited; but what there is for her to do she does with a great deal of vivacity and an easy and pleasing manner." (Argus)

Also in the cast were Alice Deorwyn as Margery Daw and Bland Holt as Jack's Mother.

Theatre in Melbourne 1881

Theatre in Melbourne 1883