Theatre in Melbourne 1884

"To anyone who is in want of a downright unlucky opera troupe I can honestly recommend the one Miss Emelie Melville took away to India. First, Mrs Farley died on the way to Adelaide. In Ceylon misfortunes fell fast upon them. Scott, and Rigby, choristers, and Perkins, leading violin, died of cholera. Signor Verdi was very ill with the same complaint. Miss Melville was, herself, very ill. Mr C. Van Ghele has become hopelessly insane, and is confined in a mad house, also in India. I should not be surprised if the remainder of the company never came back." (Scalfax December 8th, 1884)

The Opera House 1890s. Harvey, John Henry 1855-1938 photographer. Courtesy State Library of Victoria

The Opera House exterior, Melbourne, 1890s


Her Majesty's Opera House has been newly and magnificently decorated, and is, without doubt, the prettiest theatre south of the line. The stairway leading to the dress circle has been heavily carpeted, and is lit by many coloured electric lamps. The crush room is a veritable boudoir, hung with brocaded silk tapestry in old gold and deep azure blue, with a soft velvet carpet underfoot, and where, on the walls, where tapestry is not are valuable artistic works. Four extremely civil and obliging attendants in full evening dress, wait on your wants. The ladies are carefully looked after, for the old office used by Mr Dunning has been transformed into a ladies' parlour, from which they enter their cloak room, the old, unsightly entrance to which has been removed. The theatre itself has been painted and upholstered with an apparent disregard of expense, and is a marvel of taste and beauty. Rich curtains hang over the windows from elegant cornices, and are draped in artistic forms round the many large pier glasses. Every available space has been utilised for some decorative purpose; even the backs of the rows of seats have decorative patterns running round them. A multitude of many coloured electric lamps shed warm rays of light over all this richness; and the whole makes a coup d'æil that was absolutely starling from its novelty. The decorations have been designed and carried out by a French artist, whose name I forget, but who deserves the highest praise for his tastefulness and skill. The chairs in the dress circle are upholstered in Genoa velvet; and a rich Brussels carpet has been laid in the stalls. A band of pretty young ladies dressed in an attractive costume show you your seat, hand you a programme and perform all those little offices which the average usher thinks derogatory to his dignity to do. I am told the decorations have cost over £1000, and I can fully believe it. We shall be out of conceit with our Theatre Royal and Princess now. The contrast between the Opera House of three weeks ago, dirty, uncomfortable, and generally seedy, and the present bright, charming, attractive Her Majesty's Theatre is most striking. So far Messrs Rignold and Allison deserve every dramatic patron's sympathy and support.

From The Drama in Australia Monday 15th September, 1884


In 1884 Melbourne was fast approaching a population of 350,000. The growth extended outwards and an excellent railway system brought commuters into the city. Special trains were laid on for special events and as theatrical programmes were sometimes twice as long as they are today there was always a mad rush at the end of performance to catch that last train home. Maybe nothing much has changed! This year there were first performances of the comedy 'The Parvenu', by by G.W. Godfrey, the drama 'In the Ranks', by by George Sims and Henry Pettitt, and 'Imprudence', by British playwright Arthur Wing Pinero. So click on a month and check what was happening in Melbourne theatres for the year 1884.

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


Lyceum Theatre

The Stanley and Darbyshire Juvenile Company continued their season. On Tuesday January 1st they mounted 'Jack the Giant Killer, or Harlequin King Arthur and Ye Knights of Ye Round Table'. This was followed on Thursday the 10th with 'Les Cloches se Cornville' and on Wednesday 16th 'The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein' and finally 'H.M.S. Pinafore' on Saturday 19th. The last night of the short season was on January 22nd.

Theatre Royal

'Aladdin, or, the Wonderful Scamp' continued to crowd the theatre each evening.

"The transformation, representing the Four Seasons, works without the ghost of a 'stick', and contentment reigns o'er all. Spring is embodied in a beautiful view of Ann Hathaway's cottage in dear old Shottery; Summer is a view on the sequestered little Surrey river Mole - a most beautiful picture of a woodland glade sloping down to the river's brim; Autumn is a glorious picture of harvest time on the Upper Thames; and Winter shows us the village green at Brockham, with children playing on the frozen pond, and the crimson winter sun tingling all with roseate hues. The last scene is the Flight of the Butterfly fairies." (Scalfax)

Princess Theatre

The comedy 'Impulse' continued all month. Although scantily patronized at first business started to pick up during the month.

"As regards the dialogue, it is both piquant and refined in tone, and ripples on with a raciness which often moves the audience to uncontrollable laughter." (Age)

Opera House

'Rip Van Winkle' continued its season.

"The choruses are effective and no expense has been spared on the mounting." (Scalfax)

The operetta finally finishing on January 25th. The season continued with a revival of 'Black Cloakes' (Les Manteaux Noirs), by Bucalossi, opening on Saturday 26th.

"The performance was not free from faults, but these for the most part were evidence of insufficient rehearsal amongst those ladies and gentlemen who were new to the cast." (Argus)

[Editor's note: This operetta had played a successful season by the company in early October, 1883.]
The operetta played on the 28th and 29th then there were a series of benefits with the operetta returning for a final performance on Saturday 2nd February. The company then set sail for Dunedin.


'Ali Baba, or The Forty Thieves' continued successfully all month.

"The ballets of young ladies trained by Mrs Lewis are triumphs of patient labour, and contain some novel effects - notably a pistol dance, in which at certain pauses a volley is fired from revolvers carried on the person." (Scalfax)

The pantomime finished on February 6th.


Theatre Royal

After eight weeks of uninterrupted reign the pantomime 'Aladdin' was performed for the last time on Friday 15th. Owing to Maggie Moores departure for Sydney the title role was played for the few remaining performances by Marion Dunn (Mrs Marcus Clarke).

On Saturday the 16th Alfred Dampier and company opened for a short three week season. The first work was 'No Mercy', Julian Thomas’s problem drama. 'It's Never Too Late to Mend', an adaptation by Charles Reade from his novel, opened on Saturday 23rd. This play had last been seen in Melbourne in 1879.

"Mr Dampier, as Tom, has, of course, the lion's share of the applause, and his performance was even and sufficing. Miss Amelia Herbert, as Susan Merton, gave a very fine representation." (Scalfax)

Alfred Dampier Alfred Dampier (1847-1908) was one of the most loved actors of colonial Australia. Alfred was born in London and was engaged at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne, as actor-producer in 1872. From 1886 until his retirement in 1905 he was famous for his stage versions of Australian novels. He even organised a competition for an original Australian play. The winning entry he would then stage. His first love was Shakespeare and often during several of his seasons one of the Bard's works would be produced on the Friday evening only. After a disastrous New Zealand tour in 1893 he was forced to declare himself bankrupt. He returned briefly to his homeland, England, in 1894 to stage his most successful adaptation, 'Robbery under Arms'. After a London season the company toured throughout England. His last appearance was in Sydney in 1905. Dampier's company broke up after his death.


Mr J.L. Hall and company opened their comedy season. 'Our Loves', adapted from Henry James Byron's 'Wrinkles', played on Saturday February 9th and continued to do moderate business even though the intense summer heat had affected the attendance. John L. Hall and Jessie Grey took the principal parts.

"The piece was received in a very hearty manner; it was played with considerable verve, and was a decided success." (Age)

'Blow for a Blow', by Byron, opened on Saturday 23rd. The husband and wife team, G.B.W. Lewis and Jessie Grey played the leads.

Opera House

Doctor Silvester, also known as the Fakir of Oolu opened for a short season on Monday February 4th. The magician's tricks were dated and had seen better days.

On Monday February 18th the London and American Comedy Company opened for a season. First up was 'My Partner' featuring W.H. Leake.

"Mr W.H. Leake made a highly favourable impression; his quiet, suppressed and manly emotion being much more effective than the noisy melodramatic style of which we see so much." (Age)

Princess Theatre

Jenny Watt-Tanner and company celebrated the fiftieth consecutive performance of 'Impulse' on Thursday the 21st.

"The lavish mounting and the clever acting are the themes of theatrical conversation" (Scalfax)

MARCH 1884

Opera House

On March 1st Eloise Juno played the title role in 'Jeanie Deans', an adaptation from the Walter Scott novel 'Heart of Mid-Lothian'.

"Miss Eloise Juno met with a cordial reception. She is always seen at her best in Scottish characters, and of that of Jeannie Deans she has evidently made a study. Her Scotch accent and manner should be exemplary to others members of the company." (Argus)

'Jessye Brown, or the Relief of Lucknow', by Dion Boucicault, opened on Tuesday the 12th.

"Miss Eloise Juno, as usual, made the most of her opportunities as the heroine, more particularly in the final tableau, in which the sound of the approaching pibroch rouses her from an almost delirious state to renewed life and vigor, and enables her to urge on the soldiers to a final and successful resistance." (Argus)

As a stop gap on the 15th Mr J.L. Hall opened a one week season of 'The Octoroon' and 'The Colleen Bawn'.
The Jennie Lee season opened on Saturday the 23rd with 'Divorçons', an adaptation by J. P. Burnett from the Victorien Sardou (1831-1908) farce.

"The adaptation is not a particularly good one and could bear revisions in many particulars." (Scalfax)

This proved not very successful and 'Jo' opened on Friday April 4th.

Theatre Royal

'It's Never Too Late to Mend' finished on Wednesday 5th. On Thursday 6th the melodrama 'The Royal Pardon' played for two nights. Then on Saturday 8th Frank Harvey's 'The Wages of Sin'. This was described as an 'emotional drama of real life and powerful moral lesson' and was first performed in London in 1882.

"The weight of the piece really rested on the shoulders of Miss Essie Jenyns, and it is a pleasure to write that she has made a remarkable advance in her profession since she last appeared upon the Melbourne boards...she displayed an intelligence and a power of depicting a variety of highly-wrought emotions." (Argus)

'A Comedy of Errors' opened on Saturday 23rd. The brothers J.W. Holloway and Charles Holloway played the twins.

The brother's "resemblance in face, manner and speech is most marked, and it was at times difficult at times to say which of the Antipholi was on the stage." (Scalfax)

Audiences dwindled and 'The Two Orphans' was staged on the 29th. This was an adaptation by drama critic John Oxenford of Adolphe Philippe Dennery and Eugène Cormon's drama 'Les Deux Orphelines'. Jenny Watt-Tanner and Alice Deeringer took the title roles.

Princess Theatre

'Impulse' finally concluded its run on Friday the 14th.

On Saturday the 15th Genevieve Ward made her first appearance in Melbourne. 'Forget-Me-Not', by Herman Merivale and F.C. Grove, was the opening work. This play had its first performance in London in 1879.

"Miss Ward's success was great and genuine; the tremendous applause she received after every act was well deserved. She is an experienced actress, thoroughly versed in all the arts and devises of the stage." (Scalfax)

The cast also included W.H. Vernon, Nelly Mortyne and Annie Taylor.


On Saturday March 1st 'Imprudence', by Pinero, was performed at this theatre for the first time in Australia.

"The plot is highly improbable, and the characters are such as would not be tolerated for a moment in private life." (Scalfax)

The play continued until March 22nd.

Emelie Melville commenced her opera season on Saturday March 23rd. 'The Bohemian Girl' opened the season followed by 'Fatinitza' on Wednesday 26th. On the 29th 'Maritana' was staged with Martina Simonson in the title role.

APRIL 1884

Theatre Royal

On Saturday the 5th of April Tom Taylor's 'Ticket-of-Leave Man' opened. [Editor's note: The first Melbourne production of this play was in August 1863.]

"Neither the acting nor the mounting call for any special mention" (Scalfax)

Audiences stayed at home and so on Tuesday the 8th 'The Wages of Sin' was revived. The season concluded on the following Friday.
On Saturday April 12th John F. Sheridan's 'Fun on the Bristol' company opened their season.

" Of Mr Sheridan, as the widow, I can only speak in terms of praise. It is a highly finished and extremely clever performance. From first to last his presence on the stage is provocative of good hearty laughter." (Scalfax)
"The diversified character acting of Mr. John F. Sheridan met with a hearty appreciation at the hands of the audience." (Argus)

The play continued to grow in popularity throughout the month.

Princess Theatre

Genevieve Ward continued to draw crowed houses with 'Forget-Me-Not'.

"Miss Ward's art is so perfect, so microscopic in its details, that each succeeding view brings out new beauties. The performances must be seen more than once; it is impossible to grasp all the excellences of her rendition at one sitting. It must be seen again and again."

Saturday the 5th marked her 852nd performance in the work.

Opera House

The Jennie Lee season continued at this theatre. 'The Grasshopper' opened on Tuesday April 8th. On Easter Monday the 14th Frank Burnand's burlesque 'Bluebeard' was mounted. [Editor's note: 'Bluebeard' had opened at London's Gaiety in March 1883.] The cast included besides Jennie, Harry Taylor, Ada Lee and Mabel Tracey. Although the work opened with the disadvantage of too little rehearsals it continued to improve during the course of the month.


The Emelie Melville season continued. On Monday the 7th 'La Sonnambula' was produced with Martina Simonsen and Grace Plaisted in the leading roles.
On Friday the 20th there was a single performance of 'Martha' which featured the last performance of Martina Simonsen before her departure for further studies in Europe. On Saturday the 21st 'Carmen' was mounted and proved itself successful enough to remain on stage well into May. The newspaper ads of the day made mention of the fantastic gipsy ballet by Mrs Lewis's well-trained premier ballet of Australia.

MAY 1884

Princess Theatre

'Forget-Me-Not' received its last performance on Friday May 2nd. On Saturday the 3rd 'The Queen's Favourite', translated from the French by Sydney Grundy, opened.

"That there is a large section of the public, comprising representatives of all classes of society, capable of appreciating genuinely good acting, was shown not only by the large attendance at this theatre on Saturday evening, but by the eager attention bestowed upon the dialogue, the promptitude with which every point was seized and enjoyed, and the discrimination with which the applause was awarded." (Argus)
"Miss Jenny Watt-Tanner played the part of Queen Anne with becoming solidity and heaviness, and not being called upon for a display of any other quality than passive goodness she very properly kept closely to this standard." (Age)

[Editor's note: Genevieve Ward and W.H. Vernon first produced this play in London in June 1883]
The season finished on Friday 30th with a benefit for W.H. Vernon on the Saturday after which he and Geneviere Ward headed for a season in Sydney. The theatre then closed for extensive renovations.

Theatre Royal

'Fun on the Bristol' continued its popularity.

"The mounting and scenery leave nothing to be desired." (Scalfax) "Miss May Livingstone has become a pronounced favourite now, and she was enthusiastically received and imperatively encored." (Daily Telegraph)

After a successful run of five weeks 'Fun on the Bristol' had its last performance on Friday 16th May. The company then headed for Sandhurst.

Miss Jeffreys-Lewis and company made her first appearance before an Australian audience with 'Fedora'.

"It requires an actress of superior natural powers, gifted with singular parts and trained to perfection in her art, to do justice to such a character as Fedora. In these essential qualifications Miss Jeffreys-Lewis is wholly deficient...the costumes, the scenery and the furniture were exquisite." (Age)


The Emelie Melville season continued. 'Carmen' played through the month until Thursday 22nd. On the 23rd, 24th and 26th there were performances of 'Fatinitza', by Franz von Suppé, with Eva Davenport in the title role. 'La Belle Heléne' opened on Tuesday 27th.

Opera House

On Saturday the 3rd 'The Ticket-of-Leave Man', by Tom Taylor, was revived.

"Miss Lee is a perfect specimen of the half-wild, half domesticated lad, who with an inexhaustible stock of animal spirits and an irresistible desire to play practical jokes is quite an enfant terrible among the more sober people with whom he mixes. Miss Lee has copied exactly the airs and tricks of the wayward young domestic tyrants and further imparts all the life and energy of which she is capable." (Argus)

'Sam' and 'The Grasshopper' were put on during the last few days of the Jennie Lee season. The company then headed to Brisbane.

A fashionable audience were in attendance on Saturday the 10th to greet the return of Signor and Signora Majeroni and their company. 'Jealousy, or Mistaken Education' opened their season. 'Jealousy' was a translation from the original Italian by F. Morrell.

"Signora Majeroni, as Diane, showed possession of exceptional talent. Her acting is, if anything, more matured since her last appearance here, and her performance was natural and full of power." (Argus)

The Majeronis appeared in 'The Old Corporal' on Saturday 17th. This ran for two weeks.

JUNE 1884

Princess Theatre

This theatre saw the arrival and first appearance of Marie de Grey and her London Comedy Company opening on Saturday June 21st. The first work presented was 'She Stoops to Conquer' by Oliver Goldsmith. Her large company included Mrs Chippendale, Grace Otway, A.T. Hilton, Morton Selton and Mr T. Poulton

"(Marie de Grey) not only possesses the natural advantage of a pretty figure and sympathetic voice, but knows how to move with freedom and grace." (Scalfax)
"Her delivery, however, is not as clear as might be desired and in a degree detracts from her attaining a full measure of success." (Age)

Marie de Grey. Courtesy of John Culme. Marie de Grey (1852?-1897), was born Ellen Washton Knox, and made her first appearance on stage as Eucharis in 'Calypso' in 1874. This was followed by Mrs Alston in Frank Marshall's 'Brighton'. She played with various companies around Great Britain. She joined Arthur Garner's 'Stolen Kisses' company and toured to India. Returning to England in 1879 she toured for several years eventually managing the Olympic Theatre, London, for a season before touring India, again, and then Australia. She retired from the theatre in September 1895.

Theatre Royal

The Wilkie Collins play 'The New Magdalena' was revived on Saturday May 31st.

"Miss Jeffreys-Lewis has in Mercy Merrick a character which is not suited to her particular style of acting" (Scalfax)

The last performance was on Saturday 7th.

'The New Magdalen' was played for the last time, at the Theatre Royal on Saturday with Miss Lewis as Mary Merrick. During the prologue Miss Lewis has a very long and trying speech to make to Grace Roseberry, descriptive of her early life. The gallery did not appreciate this, and noisy expressions of disapproval were soon heard. The disturbance became worse and worse, so much so that Miss Lewis had to come forward and try to calm the disturbers in these words: "May I ask the same attention from an Australian public that I have always received in England and America?" Then she broke down, and tears finished the sentence for her. Mr St Lawrence who was standing in the wing, came on the stage and requested some gentleman to throw "those hounds" out of the gallery. A respectable-looking man, named William Kiddle, was arrested for causing the disturbance, and has probably regretted his effusiveness by this time. It is needless to say that Miss Lewis had the entire sympathy of the audience for the remainder of the evening.
Scalfax reporting on Tuesday June 10th, 1884

'Notré-Dame', an adaptation of Victor Hugo's 'Hunchback' opened on Monday June 9th.

This was "mounted with the greatest possible attention to scenic and spectacular effect." (Scalfax)

On Saturday the 28th the comedy-drama 'The Planter's Wife', by James K. Tillotson, opened.

"Of Mr Ireland, as the planter, I cannot say anything particularly favourable. He has of late acquired a peculiarly stilted style of action and delivery, which mars an honest attempt to do his best with the character." (Scalfax)

Opera House

The Majeronis opened 'Marie Antoinette' on Saturday 31st May. Signora Majeroni played the title role.

"Signora Majeroni, on whom the whole brunt of the acting falls, has but confirmed the exceeding high opinion formed of her capabilities in other performances; and it may be truely said that there are few actresses in the civilised world who could have achieved such an artistic success as she did last Saturday." (Scalfax)

The Majeronis concluded their season on Friday the 20th with 'Marie Stuart'
On Saturday 21st the Dunning management took over the theatre with a production of 'The Blue Ribbon of the Turf'. There was a Derby scene with real horses and a real jump but the play itself received rubbish reviews. The production ran until the end of the month.

"The race scene is effectively managed, real horses being brought across the stage, but with this exception the play is uninteresting and incoherent." (Age)


'La Belle Helene' continued until June 4th. On Thursday the 5th 'La Fille de Madame Angot' took the stage and played until Saturday 21st. 'The Princess of Trebizonde', by Offenbach, opened on Monday the 23rd followed by 'The Grand Duchess of Gerostein' on Saturday 28th.

JULY 1884

Theatre Royal

'The Planter's Wife' continued to draw crowds.

"Miss Jeffreys Lewis is fitted with a character she can do justice to; and her impersonation of Edith Grey is well studied" (Scalfax)

On Tuesday July 8th Miss Jeffreys Lewis played 'East Lynne' for the last few nights of the season after which the company headed for Adelaide and then on to Sydney.

On Saturday 12th Frank Burnard's 'The Turn of the Tide' was staged by the theatre's stock company.

"Miss Maggie Knight is charming everyone by the artless manner in which she impersonates Marguerite Assheton; she looks prettier than a picture and sings really well." (Scalfax)
"The return of Mr. R. H. Harwood to the stage of the Theatre Royal was made the occasion of one of those remarkably warm greetings which audiences accord to those who have become well established as favourites. He brought the character of the eccentric Mr. Danby into quite new prominence, and was, as usual, a never-failing source of amusement." (Argus)

Even with favourable reviews it only lasted two weeks. On Saturday 26th 'The Lancashire Lass', by Byron, was produced. This introduced the ever popular actor J.R. Grenville.

"So old a Melbourne favourite as Mr. Grenville is always sure of a hearty welcome, and the cordial greeting which he secured on Saturday evening was both deserved and to be expected." (Age)

Frank Cates left this production after the first week to join the 'Impulse' company at the Princess. The play continued to draw good audiences into August.

Princess Theatre

Marie de Grey and her company appeared in the well known 'School for Scandal' on July 12th.

Of Marie de Grey Scalfax said "her peculiarities of speech are much against a satisfactory representation of the character. That she looks charming, and is most graceful goes without saying. She is a picture to look at, but she is not Lady Teazle."
"Miss De Grey has evidently misconceived, or is unable to enter into the character of Lady Teazle, and, instead of the graceful and elegant coquette, she presented us with a lisping hoyden, who wore incongruous costumes, composed of the richest materials, ornamented, in the worst possible taste with the leaves of a plant which not been discovered when the comedy was written." (Argus)

Tom Taylor's comedy 'An Unequal Match' was produced on Saturday 19th.

"It is true there were occasional manifestations of applause, but these were given to the dramatist, and not to his interpreters." (Argus)

This ran for just a few performances. There was the first Melbourne performance of the comedy drama 'A Wife's Victory', by Frank Harvey, on Saturday 26th.

"Miss Marie de Grey was an able and sympathetic Katherine Clare. Her gestures were all graceful and appropriate, and extreme elegance and refinement marked her performance." (Scalfax)

Opera House

'The Outcasts, or Dead in the Snow' played on July 1st.

"In brief, the play is entirely unworthy of serious criticism." (Age)

This was followed by 'The Octoroon' playing on Tuesday 8th. Melodrama prevailed with 'The Creole, or The Black Doctor' opening on July 12th.

"The drama has nothing special to recommend it, and for people who like that sort of play it is just about the sort of piece they would like." (Scalfax)

On Saturday the 19th 'Jo', a version of Dicken's 'Bleak House', was produced. This adaptation was by E.B. Russell and was produced to show off the acting talents of his daughter Belle Russell.

"Miss Russell's performance shows talent, crude perhaps, and not too well directed." (Scalfax)

On Wednesday the 13th 'Man and Wife', adapted from the Wilkie Collins novel, was staged for a few performances.
Clark and Ryman's Company opened 'Sparks' for a short season on Saturday 26th. It was an entertainment with some song and dance numbers modelled after 'Fun on the Bristol' and received average reviews.


On July 12th Emelie Melville appeared at this theatre in 'Royal Middy' with Gracie Plaisted as the Queen. 'H.M.S. Pinafore' was revived on July 19th with Emelie as Josephine, Charles Harding as Ralph Rackstraw and Eva Davenport as Little Buttercup.

"It is to be at once said that Miss Melville's impersonation of the rôle of Josephine Corcoran - the captain's most attractive daughter - is charming at all points. If it does not quite reach the high standard set by tho lady who first performed the same part in Melbourne, the approach to it is very near and it may be equalled by natural development in the course of a few more representations." (Argus)


Theatre Royal

On Saturday August 9th Genevieve Ward and W.H. Vernon made their first appearance in tragedy at this theatre. The production was 'Macbeth' and for the opening the huge auditorium was crowded to excess with a good humoured audience but the performance was deemed unsatisfactory.

"Miss Ward portrayed the character with great force. That her impersonation is one of special excellence will not be disputed by any one whose opinion on such matters is worth the consideration." (Age)

'Macbeth' finished on Friday the 22nd and on Saturday the 23rd the tragedy 'Jane Shore', by Nicolas Rowe, was produced. This was written in 1713 and was a humble imitation of the Shakespeare style.

"Miss Ward, as Jane Shore, is the centre figure of the play, and she acts the part most excellently. There is plenty of scope for the exhibition of her rather peculiar manner of acting, and she does not fail to seize every opportunity." (Scalfax)
"The hard and unamiable character of Edward IV's wife was sufficiently well brought out by Mrs Gordon, and Mr W H. Leake was equally at home in that of the Duke of Gloucester, the leading features of which have been almost necessarily borrowed from Shakspeare's unhistorical picture of him." (Argus)

Opera House

The Clark and Ryman Comedy Company continued their season with 'Honest Hearts' opening on Saturday 9th.

"There is very little about honest hearts in it, and what there is is made a peg on which to hang a number of miscellaneous songs and dances of doubtful merit." (Scalfax)

Amy Horton appeared with the company on Saturday the 16th in 'Magic Toys'. 'Formosa', by Dion Boucicault, was mounted on Saturday 23rd.

"The houses are as good as the acting, which is only just." (Scalfax)
"Advantage was taken of the racing scene to introduce a dance, a performance with bones and tambourines, which was rapturously encored, and a lengthy sparring contest." (Argus)

The theatre then closed at the end of the month.

Princess Theatre

'Impulse' was revived on August 2nd but died a natural death. The revival had not been at all successful. The first performance in Australia of the comedy 'The Parvenu', by G.W. Godfrey, played on the 16th and continued to draw crowds throughout the month.

"Of the characters, the principal interest, of course, settles on the parvenu, old Mr Ledger, admirably acted by Mr A. Redwood...Mr Redwood has proved to be a most acceptable acquisition to our stage; and his acting on Saturday night only confirmed the high options formed of him in previous characters." (Scalfax)

'The Parvenu' finally finished on September 5th.


On Thursday July 31st Marie de Grey produced 'An Unequal Match' and on Friday the 1st she made her first and last appearance as Pauline in 'The Lady of Lyons'. The company then left for Ballarat, Sandhurst and Geelong.

On Saturday 2nd the Emelie Melville company revived 'La Pericole' followed by 'Girofle-Girofle' a week later. 'Maritana' was produced on Saturday 16th with Josephine Deakin in the title role.

"Miss Deakin is far too stiff in manner for a lively character like Maritana, and I must confess I never liked her singing of it." (Scalfax)
"Apart from the too evident want of vocal strength which was apparent throughout the evening, Miss Deakin displayed faults of manner which were not to have been expected from one of her experience." (Argus)

On the following Wednesday Eva Davenport took the title role. On Saturday the 23rd Emelie Melville was the star performer in 'The Bohemian Girl'. On Saturday 30th 'Carmen' was revived with Emelie Melville in the title role. Signor Verdi sang Escamillo and Minna Fischer (returning to the operatic stage after an absence of six years) sang Micaela.


Theatre Royal

'Jane Shore' continued to do good business.

"The magnificent scenic effects, added to Miss Ward's powerful acting...(she) has worked up starvation scene in a most natural and therefore thoroughly artistic manner." (Scalfax)

On Saturday the 6th the music drama 'Guy Mannering', an adaptation by Daniel Terry from the Walter Scott novel, was produced. Miss Ward played Meg Merrilies.

"Her makeup is wonderfully weird and repulsive - she looks every inch a witch; and her acting is worthy of the highest praise." (Scalfax)

On Saturday 13th Genevieve Ward played the tragedy 'Medea' to average houses.

"The strong nature of Medea, and the greatness of her woes, gave Miss Genevive Ward a good opportunity for the display of those higher touches of the dramatic art in which she excels, and the success, striking in themselves, were made all the more effective by the terrible earnestness of the actress, who seemed to realise in her own person all the varied emotions which can be assumed to find habitation in the heart of the cruelly wronger daughter of a king. " (Age)

On Wednesday 17th there was a revival of 'Macbeth'. On Saturday 20th 'Henry VIII' was mounted.

"The audience, a large and enthusiastic one, appeared to be highly pleased with Miss Ward's rendering of the ill-fated Queen Katherine, and she met with many marks of esteem during the evening. The original music, written by Sir Arthur Sullivan for the Manchester revival, is used with much effect." (Scalfax)

'Much Ado About Nothing' opened on Wednesday September 24th.

Of Miss Ward Scalfax said " From first to last she filled her part with gaiety and humour, and was rewarded with round after round of applause."

'Macbeth' and 'Henry VIII' ended the season which concluded on Friday 26th. The company then headed for Sandhurst, Ballarat and Geelong.

Princess Theatre

There was a revival of the Sardou comedy 'Friends' (Nous Intimes) on Saturday the 6th September.

"A novelty in the way of casting has been initiated with this comedy, as Miss Annie Mayor and Miss Jenny Watt-Tanner enact Cecile, the wife, on alternate nights." (Scalfax)

'Our Boys' was revived on the 20th.

"Mr Arthur Redwood has made a most humorous study of Perkyn Middlewick; and though he was extremely nervous and not quite letter perfect in the test, made a most favourable impression." (Scalfax)

A sensational drama entitled 'Hand and Glove', by Conquest and Merritt, was produced on Saturday 27th. The play ran just a week.


Emelie Melville's opera season terminated on September 13th with 'La Pericole'. The company left for India later in month. [Editor's note: See interesting newspaper article at the top of this page]
John F Sheridan's 'Fun on the Bristol' company opened on Monday 15th to a crammed house.

"Mr John F. Sheridan received a most vociferous and enthusiastic greeting on his entrance." (Scalfax)

Several of the songs, dances and incidental music had been changed for this current production. As the season progressed a burlesque of 'Romeo and Juliet' was added to the programme. Sheridan played Juliet and May Livingston played Romeo.

Opera House

Theatre stayed closed while repairs and alterations were carried out. On Saturday 13th 'Romeo and Juliet' opened in the revamped theatre. This featured Fanny Reid and Frank Cates in the title roles. This present production was first produced at the Lyceum Theatre, London, in 1882. The scenery had been especially imported from England and proved disappointing with reviewers.

"If Messrs hawes, Craven, Telbin, and Cuthbert cannot turn out better work than this, we shall be inclined to believe that our own, unassuming Geo. Gordon, is the greatest man in his line that ever lived." (Scalfax)

Fanny Reid (who was making her first appearance on the Australian stage) proved unsatisfactory and Frank Cates was not much better. As Mercutio new arrival, Brian Darley, received positive notices.

"Suffice it to say the play was mounted superbly, and the characters generally sustained, if not with genius, at all events with an intelligence that was not murky." (Age)


Theatre Royal

'The Silver King' was revived at this theatre on Saturday September 27th.

"Mr G.S. Titheradge is as excellent a Wilfred Denver as ever; and that Miss Annie Mayor plays Nellie Denver as of yore; that is to say, well." (Scalfax)

The last night was on Saturday 11th. 'Extremes, or Men of the Day' was produced on Monday 13th to a rather small audience.

"Mrs Chippendale appeared as Mrs Wildbriar, and gave a fair and even rendering of the character." (Scalfax)

The next production was 'The Rivals' on Saturday 25th.

"Mrs Chippendale was the Mrs Malaprop, and did full justice to the character. Her performance was an even and well-studied one" (Scalfax)

This production flopped and so ended the Chippendale season.


John F. Sheridan and company continued the popular 'Fun on the Bristol' on Monday October 13th. The company played until the end of the month and then migrated to St George's Hall for a season of four weeks after which they sailed for Hobart and then New Zealand.

Opera House

'Romeo and Juliet' continued its run until audiences started to thin.

George Rignold and company then opened their season. The big production would be 'In The Ranks' opening later in the month until then there were a few 'stop-gap' works mounted. 'Alone' and 'Black-eye'd Susan' opened on Saturday 11th. This saw the first appearance of Kate Bishop, the new leading lady engaged by Rignold in London.

"Her acting as Maude Trevor was of no unusual excellence, but the part is too small and even to allow an opportunity of forming a satisfactory estimate of her powers." (Scalfax)

[Editor's note: 'Black-eye'd Susan' was written by Douglas Jerrold and first performed in England in 1829] These works ran until Friday 17th, when 'Clancarty' was put on.

"Mr Rignold was Lord Clancarty, and acted with his usual volubility and unsteadiness." (Scalfax)

This played for only a couple of performances allowing the theatre to be closed while structural changes to the stage were done.
On Saturday October 25th 'In the Ranks' by Pettit and Sims was staged. This was the first performance in Australia.

"Miss Kate Bishop, in her impersonation of the dauntless Ruth enlisted the sympathies of the audience to the utmost extent, and together with Mr. G. Rignold, as Ned Drayton, carried off all the honours, being cheered and recalled throughout the evening to their hearts' content." (Age)

George Rignold Actor-manager, George Rignold (1839-1912) was an English man who came to Australia in 1878. After a brief tour of England and America he finally settled in australia in the mid 1880s. Her Majesty's Theatre at Sydney was built for him in 1886 which became his headquarters for nine years. Among his leading parts were Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Caliban in The Tempest, Falstaff, Bottom, Romeo and Macbeth. He was an excellent producer and he sometimes achieved the almost impossible. His production of 'In the Ranks', by Sims and Oettitt, played for 83 performances in 1887/88 and set a record for a non musical play. His last production was 'Othello' in Sydney in 1899. He died, after an operation, in Sydney.

Princess Theatre

On Saturday 4th there was the first production of Frank Harvey's domestic drama 'The Workman; or the Shadow of the Hearth'.

" It is interesting to see once; see it twice and it bores you...Mr Dampier was not satisfactory as the workman, the part originally played by the author." (Scalfax)

The play ran a week and the theatre then closed for two weeks.

The Princess Theatre reopened on Saturday 25th with their comic opera season. 'Les Cloches de Corneville' was the first production with Emma Chambers making her bow to an Australian audience.

"Her efforts met with the entire approbation of a densely packed audience, and it was a night that would drive an audience disposed in any way to be captious to the committal of most desperate acts, for the heat was stifling...taken as a whole, this performance of 'Les Cloches de Corneville' was the most enjoyable I have ever sat out, and I have seen many." (Scalfax)


Princess Theatre

The Royal Opera Company opened George Sims and Frederic Clay's opera 'The Merry Duchess' on Saturday 1st. This had been first performed in London in 1883.

"The music of the opera is light and airy, but many of the numbers are gems of melody...Miss Nellie Stewart, as the Duchess, sings and acts the title role with all the energy and intelligence which invariably characterise this clever young lady's impersonations." (Scalfax)

On the 15th there was the first Melbourne production of 'Estrella' by Walter Parke and Luscombe Searelle. The cast that included Mr. E. Kelly, Philip Day, W.H. Woodfield, John Forde and Nellie Stewart.

"As a first operatic production Estrella shows sufficient ability to warrant the expectation from its composer of other works of greater merit, as he will have gained experience and strengthened his powers by this his first venture." (Age)

[Editor's note: 'Estrella' was first produced in Manchester in May 1883 and transferred to the Gaiety, London, a week later. It was a failure. It opened in New York in December 1884 but only lasted three performances as the theatre was destroyed by fire.]

Luscombe Searelle Luscombe Searelle (1853-1907) was born in Devon, England, but was raised in New Zealand from the age of nine. He worked as pianist, then conductor and composer in Christchurch. He wrote several unsuccessful operas. Only Estella became a smash hit in Australia where it was mounted by the Montague-Turner Opera Company in 1884. He became bankrupt in 1886 and left for the U.S.A. Searelle died in 1907.


On Saturday 25th October there was a reappearance in the city of English actress Miss Marie de Grey and her London Comedy Company. The season opened with 'Moths', an adaptation by H. Hamilton from Ouida's novel.

"Miss de Grey was better suited than I have seen her for some time; her acting was good and appropriate, and she looking charming enough to melt even the icy heart of a Russian bear...Mr A.T. Hilton was the most un-Russian - pardon the neologism - looking Russian possible."

The play was withdrawn on Friday 7th. 'Woman Against Woman' opened on Saturday 8th and ran for two weeks. This was a rechristening of the Frank Harvey drama 'Brother Against Brother'.

"Miss De Grey's acting as Louise is highly creditable to her, and is a great improvement upon her manner of some months back." (Scalfax)

On Monday the 17th Marie de Grey opened the comedy 'The Country Girl', by William Wycherley. This was followed by 'London Assurance', by Dion Boucicault, on Saturday 22nd and on Wednesday 26th 'Adrienne Lecouvreur', a play based on the life of the popular French actress. On Saturday 29th 'As You Like It' was performed.

Opera House

George Rignold and company continued their successful season of 'In the Ranks' throughout November.

"Everything works now with the precision of clockwork, and the audience are not troubled with too long an interval between the acts. Mr Rignold, Miss Bishop, Mr Darley, and Mr Cathcart all work hard to make the drama go, and merit the applause they receive for their exertions." (Scalfax)

Theatre Royal

The Royal Dramatic Company were the resident theatrical troupe at this theatre. On Saturday 1st 'The Silver King' was hastily mounted. On Friday 7th Frank Burnard's 'The Turn of the Tide' was staged. 'Daisy Farm', by Henry Bryon, was revived on the 15th. After a week of dismal business it was replaced by 'The Professor', by William Gillette.

"Mr Titheradge's performances in the title role deserves every praise; and Miss Maggie Moore, as Daisy Brown, acts with a through and ernest appreciation of the beauties of her part" (Scalfax)



A well filled house greeted Miss Marie de Grey and her company on Saturday 6th in Robert Buchanan's adaption of Georges Ohnet's story 'Le Maitre de Forges' (The Ironmaster) and known as 'Lady Clare'.

Of Marie de Grey Scalfax said she "tries hard to make a success of the part of Lady Clare, and must be credited with much enthusiastic appreciation on the part of the audience, She has to suffer from the inadequate representation of some of the other parts, but makes a decided and clever bid for success."

The play continued until Christmas after which the company then moved to the Princess Theatre to continue their season.

On boxing night 'Confusion' by Joseph Derrick opened at the Bijou . This was still playing in London and featured Phil Day and Kate Bishop who both had been in the original London production.

"Mr. Day gave an excellent impersonation of the character of the bewildered husband, and Miss Bishop also acquitted herself very credibly." (Age)

Opera House

'In the Ranks' continued its popular run. The work was so popular it ran until Christmas.

"The audiences have not been particularly large of late, but a good average attendance has been kept up, and the proprietors still smile." (Scalfax)

The pantomime this year at the Opera House was 'Sinbad the Sailor, or the Genit of the Diamond Valley and the new guises of the future.' The show proved most popular with large numbers being turned away each evening.

"The applause was continuous throughout, the topical songs were encored several times, and the principals were recalled at the termination of each act." (Age)

Blanche Lewis took the title role.

Princess Theatre

'Estrella' continued its long run. "The choruses and all concerned work in the utmost harmony together, and the opera goes with the precision of machinery." (Scalfax) This stayed on stage until Christmas.
On boxing night Miss de Grey and company continued their season with 'East Lynne', an adaptation of Mrs. Henry Wood's (1814-1887) 1863 novel.

"This drama possesses few real attractions when regarded from a healthy human standpoint, but there appears to be something in its tearful stupidity which has obtained a hold on the sympathies of the public, as its production upon the stage is frequent." (Age)

Theatre Royal

'The Professor' continued for the first two weeks of December. On Saturday the 13th of December 'Diplomacy', by Victorien Sardou, which featured Wybert Reeve, was mounted. The season concluded on Wednesday December 24th.

The annual pantomime opened on boxing night. This year it was 'Cinderella, her sisters, her sorrows and her little glass slippers, or the fairy God Mother, who wouldn't let the bad Step-father.'

"The huge theatre was crammed to excess by a noisy, perspiring crowd. Some first-class solo and choral singing is introduced during the course of the pantomime." (Scalfax)

Nellie Stewart took the title role and J.R. Greville and H. Taylor played the two ugly daughters.

Theatre in Melbourne 1883

Theatre in Melbourne 1885