Theatre in Melbourne 1885

"On Saturday night my wife and myself drove a distance of five miles to see "My Partner" performed at Her Majesty's Opera-house, and I must say that during a period of a quarter of a century's experience of theatre-going in Melbourne, I never saw or heard such a display of ruffianism as was shown by the occupants of the gallery on that occasion. Long before the curtain the curtain was raised, pellets of all description were thrown at the people in the stalls; was continued at intervals and culminated in a lemonade bottle being thrown, which struck my wife's shoulder, grazed a gentleman's head, and then broke in pieces on the floor. The Indies entérine, the dress circle were disgusted at the outrageous attention paid to their personal appearance, and the gross remarks shouted through the house by a hundred leather-lunged scoundrels. The imitations of cat-calls and other animals made the place such a pandemonium."
(Argus, Letter to the Editor February 16th, 1885)

first Cable Car 1885

The first Cable Car, Melbourne, 1885

IMPROVEMENTS AT THE THEATRE ROYAL

During the week the Theatre Royal has been closed in order that the dress-circle might be entirely re-arranged, and to permit of a general renovation of the interior of the theatre. The work of providing modern moveable seats to take the place of those of the "old arm-chair" pattern was entrusted by the management to the firm of Messrs Mclean Bros and Rigg. Formerly the dress-circle was cut up into several diversions, but the barriers have been entirely swept away, a small brass railing with curtains about the vice-regal box being the only partition now remaining. The chief effect of the alteration is that extra sitting accommodation has been provided for about 60 people. The removal of the row of small boxes on either wing, together with the abolition of the cumbrous barriers, given this part of the house a lighter and more roomy appearance. One of the manager's boxes has been slightly enlarged, and will be converted into private boxes. Instead of the high barrier that formerly enclosed the seats, a light wood-work railing, with ornamental hangings has been erected. The movable seats are according to the latest English and American patterns. The back is of cast-iron scroll, decorated in white and gold and with a centre pad of crimson plush velvet. The folding seat is of the same material and colour, and as each seat in the row is independent of the others, they can be removed if necessary, so that two seats of the ordinary size are converted into a single large one. A good deal of expedition was necessary in getting the seats cast and fitted within the week, and the employes of the firm have been obliged to work night and day to get finished in time for the production of "The Private Secretary" this evening. Sitting accommodation is now available in the circle for 240 people, and during the summer months especially the change in the arrangements is likely to be appreciated. In addition to the dress circle alterations, the proscenium and other parts of the theatre in front of the curtain have been re-decorated, so that regular theatregoers will find a decided change for the better in the appearance of this popular place of amusement.

Argus Saturday 5th September, 1885

FIRST PERFORMANCES AND FULL HOUSES


In 1885, along with the opening of Prince Henry's Hospital and the first trams running through Melbourne streets, the city saw rises in attendances at the three main theatres and first performances in Australia of such works as 'In the Ranks', 'Iolanthe', and Luscombe Searelle's 'Isidora' - which was a first performance anywhere!

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


JANUARY 1885

Bijou

Phil Day and Kate Bishop continued to attract good audiences all January with their production of 'Confusion'.

"Another half-hour of it would have exhausted three-fourths of those present" (Argus)

This theatre became one of the first to introduce the Saturday matinee. These became increasingly popular.

Opera House

'Sinbad' continued to play to packed houses all of January.

"Miss Amy Horton and Miss Blanche Louis are the leading attractions; and, as they are both clever and pretty, I suppose they deserve to be." (Scalfax)

The production ran much smoother after excisions had been made.

Theatre Royal

The annual pantomime 'Cinderella' proved itself popular and played throughout January.

"Not the least attractive part of the entertainment is the beautiful scenery painted by Mr. Geo. Gordon. His efforts as a scenic artist are too well known to need special comment now, yet it will be but just praise to say that in this, his latest work, he has excelled himself." (Age)

Princess Theatre

Miss Marie de Grey and company ended their long season on Saturday January 3rd. The last few nights were taken with a double bill, 'The Busy Body', by Susanna Centlivre (c. 1667-1723), and the Scottish comic drama ‘Cramond Brig and the Gudeman’, by William B. Murray (1790-1852).

The oldest theatre in the Colony was then pulled down. It would be be rebuilt as the New Princess to open in late 1886.


FEBRUARY 1885

Opera House

'Sinbad' finally finished its long run on Friday February 13th.
On Saturday February 14th there was a reappearance by George Rignold this time in Bartley Campbell's romantic drama 'My Partner'. George Rignold originally played the same role in London.

"Mr. Rignold's representation of the hero of the drama was an excellent piece of acting. " (Age)
"The character of Joe Saunders is one to which Mr. Hignold is qualified to do full justice, and he does it, playing it with an earnestness and a rugged pathos that entitle him to warm commendation." (Argus)
"None of the performers displayed any special ability, and the performance met with the disproval of the rowdy portion of the audience." (Scalfax)

Theatre Royal

There was no stopping the popularity of 'Cinderella'. By the end of February over 150,000 people had seen the production.

"The houses continue to be as good as ever, and the piece is received with the same cordiality as on its first production" (Daily Telegraph)

Bijou

'Confusion' continued most of February finally finishing on Thursday February 26th. The company then headed for Sydney.

A scratch company performed Mr. R.P. Whitworth's comedy 'Fortune's Wheel, or Captain Ginger Married and Settled' on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th. This work was a continuation of the well known Bryon comedy 'Our Girls'.


MARCH 1885

Bijou

The Majeroni Dramatic Company opened on Saturday March 7th with 'Fedora' by Victorieu Sardou. Reviews were positive especially for Signor Eduardo Majeroni and his wife Giulia.

"The characters of Fedora and Loris take up so much of the play that there is comparatively small scope for other actors engaged in it to distinguish themselves." (Age)
"The acting of both Signor and Signora Majeroni throughout the whole of this trying scene was simply magnificent. Her remorse and supplication, and his fierce, ungovernable resentment and obduracy, were thrilling in their intensity." (Argus)

Opera House

'My Partner' concluded on March 6th. On the 7th George Rignold appeared in the emotional drama 'Amos Clark' by Watts-Phillips (1825-1874). This was a role he had originally played in London and six years earlier in Melbourne.

"As Amos Clark, Mr. Rignold was, as before, successful in giving and excellent representation of a thoroughly congenial character, and rising at times to a highly effective portrayal of character" (Argus)
"Mr. Rignold's representation of the character of Amos Clark...was on the whole a very meritorious performance, and in some of the more stirring scenes he exhibited great dramatic power." (Age)

On the 21st, 23rd and 24th there were performances of the Irish drama 'Clancarty' [Editor's note: this was probably 'Lady Clancarty' by Tom Taylor] and on the 25th, 26th and 27th 'My Partner'.
Opening on Saturday March 28th was the first production in Australia of 'Called Back', by Hugh Conway, based on his novel. This play had run for over 250 performances in London.

"The authors have achieved much greater success in the performance of their task than might have been anticipated, and the adaptation, which was submitted to the judgement of a colonial audience for the first time on Saturday evening, has the qualities of a successful drama." (Age)

Theatre Royal

'Cinderella' finally finished its long and successful run on Saturday March 28th clocking up a total of over 80 performances.

Scalfax said "With all its faults - and it has many - this pantomime has had a run which must entitle it to a prominent position in the history of the Colonial stage."


APRIL 1885

Opera House

'Called Back' continued all April.

"Mr. Geo. Rignold surprised his most ardent admirers so well did he illustrate the diabolical ferocity of Macari that the audience expressed their indignation at his conduct by groans and hisses." (Daily Telegraph)

Theatre Royal

The Williamson, Garner and Musgrove Royal Comic Opera Company opened a season commencing on April the 4th. The first production was 'La Petite Mademoiselle', by Charles Lecocq, having its first production in Australia.

"Great praise is due to all concerned tor tho smoothness and apparent spontaneity which characierised this first night's performance. The stage ia frequently crowded to its utmost holding capacity with citizens and soldiers, all brilliantly attired in new and becoming costume; and the way theses masses are moved about without falling into confusion speaks well for the drill to which they have been subjected." (Argus)

The cast included Signor Brocolini, making his first appearance on the Australian stage.

Signor Brocolini "at once established himself as a favourite, his first song receiving an emphatic encore." (Age)

Also in the cast were Aggie Kelton, Maggie Stewart, W.H. Woodfield and Emma Chambers.

Emma Chambers "played the part of Jacqueline with vivacity and chic, but sang painfully out of tune." (Age)

The work continued successfully the rest of the month. [Editor's note: 'La Petite Mademoiselle' was first produced in Paris and London in 1879. The English libretto was by Messers Reece and Harry S. Leigh.]

Bijou

'Fedora' finished its season on Friday April 10th. On Saturday the 11th Ohnet's 'Le Maitre de Forges' was produced. [Editor's note: This had played in London under the title 'The Ironmaster' which in itself was an adaptation and translation of something called 'The Foundry Master']

The production was ""viewed as an artistic achievement, the Claire of Signora Majeroni demands almost unqualified praise. If we were asked to name the two qualities for which Signora Majeroni's acting is most notable in her new rôle, we should say distinction and delicacy, and a certain refinement of thought and feeling which makes themselves audible in the tones of her voice, and visible in her every gesture and movement."" (Argus)

The final night was on Thursday April 23rd. On Friday the 24th there was a farewell benefit to Madame Majeroni with Sardou's 'A Scrap of Paper'.

On April 25th saw the inaugural performance of Messes Majeroni and Wilsons Comic Opera Company. The interior of the theatre had been redecorated and recarpeted and the electric light had been installed. The opening work was was 'La Fille de Madame Angot' with a cast that included Charles Harding, Gracie Plaisted and Frances Saville.

"Exception must be taken to the tempo adopted in some parts of the opera, several numbers being too hurried, robbing elegant musical phrases of their charm and distorting the meaning of the composer." (Age)
"Mr Luscombe Searelle has gathered round him an excellent band of practised players representing the principal orchestral instruments and these he conducts with confidence and good style." (Argus)


MAY 1885

Bijou

The operetta season continued. On Saturday May 2nd 'La Perichole', by Offenbach, opened. This featured Gracie Plaisted in the title role.

Gracie Plaisted "threw herself into the character with her usual dash, and succeeded in carrying off almost all the honors of the evening." (Age)
"Mr Charles harding was in excellent voice. As Piquillo he acquitted himself entirely to the satisfaction of the audience, singing with a brightness and vigour which were at all times inspiring." (Argus)

A week later on May the 9th Luscombe Searelle's (1853-1907) new comic opera 'Bobadil' opened.

"The whole of the music is pervaded by reminiscences, almost every phrase tantalising the bearer with the idea that it is familiar, and too much use is also made of progressions, both melodic and harmonic, now worn so threadbare as to have become common property, and no longer recognisable as the composition of any one" (Age)
"As a composer, Mr. Searelle is a sworn foe of dulness, and a warm friend of variety. His music is bright, piquant and taking. That it contains hints and reminiscences of other composers is more than probable. Perhaps it is unavoidable. Verdi is full of them." (Argus)

[Editor's note: 'Bobadil' had previously ran 50 successful performances in Sydney]

Theatre Royal

'La Petite Mademoiselle' finished on Friday May 1st. On May 2nd 'La Mascotte' played for six nights only. This featured the ever popular idols Maggie Moore and Nellie Stewart.

Nellie Stewart "had her original part of Fiametta, in the interpretation of which she showed much intelligence, and was particularly graceful and attractive in the last act." (Age)

On Saturday May the 9th was the first performance in Australia of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Iolanthe'. This featured the first appearance in Australia of Robert Brough and his wife, Florence Trevelyn.

"Miss Nellie Stewart made a pretty and piquant Shepherdess, and the Iolanthe of Miss Emma Chamber was in some respects good. Mr. Woodfield gave an excellent rendering of the part of Lord Mountserrat, to which he imparted a considerable amount of character, and also sang very effectively." (Age)
"Messra Harwood and Kelly were in 'very gracious fooling'. If a premium were offered to the perpetrator ot the most atrocious puns Mr Harwood would prove a dangerous competitor, and Mr Kelly could scarcely fail to receive honourable mention." (Argus)

Luscombe Searelle from the Australian Dictionary of Biography Lionel Robert Brough (1857-1906) was born in England. He made his theatrical début in 1870 and gained his experience as a comedian at the Theatre Royal, Liverpool, and the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. He toured with one of the D'Oyly Carte companies in 'H.M.S. Pinafore'. He was contracted by J.C. Williamson for a season in Australia and made his first appearance there in 'Iolanthe' in 1885. The following year he set up a permanent comedy company in partnership with Dion Boucicault, Jr. The company flourished. When Dion Boucicault retired in 1896 Robert continued to manage the company until 1902. He died at Sydney on 20 April 1906.

Opera House

'Called Back' continued its success.

'Called Back' proved "such an attraction that there is no intention of withdrawning it for the present." (Argus)

The production finally drew to a close on Friday May 15th.
On Saturday the 16th George Rignold appeared in 'Youth'.

"Mr. George Rignold played Frank Darlington with appropriate dash, and the Rev. Joseph Darlington found a really able exponent in W.G. Carey...Saturday nights performance was not concluded until after midnight - a fact prominently brought under the notice of the house by one of the members sitting in the gallery yelling 'Up with the rag; how d'ye suppose we can get home? There ain't no blooming Sunday trains.'" (Age)
"The performance left little to be desired, and the approbation of the audience was signified every time the curtain fell by a boisterous call for the principals." (Argus)


JUNE 1885

Theatre Royal

'Iolanthe' continued throughout the month

"The orchestra proved fully equal to the satisfactory rendition of the music, and the beautiful scenery by Mr. Gordon elicited much applause." (Age)

There was a change in the cast. Mr. E. St Clair replaced Signor Brocolini in the role of Stephon. 'Iolanthe' finished its successful run on Friday June 26th. On Saturday the 27th 'La Fille du Tambour Major', by Offenbach, played a two week stint.

"For a stage effect I consider the finale to the last act to be equal to anything yet attempted...I should say there are close upon two hundred people on the stage during this scene, and they have been well drilled. Miss Nellie Stewart is a bright and cheery Stella, and sand with much ease and freedom the music allotted to her." (Scalfax)

The season finished on July 10th and the company headed to Sydney.

Opera House

'Youth' finished on Saturday June 20th. On Monday th 22nd the comedy drama 'Caste', by Tom Robertson, played for five nights only.

"Miss Kate Bishop looked charming as Esther Eccles, and received two hearty recalls at the end of the first and second acts." (Scalfax)

On the Saturday the 27th there opened, for the first time, an entirely original Australian play. This was 'The Squatter' written by George Darrell.

The Age reviewer said the play "is no new departure from the line of the author's previous aspirations, and there is no danger of the play becoming a classic one, but it is not unlikely to obtain a passing popularity."

Bijou

'Bobadil' finished Friday June 5th. On the 6th 'The Brigands', by Offenbach, was mounted.

"The music shows evident signs of hasty construction and want of inspiration, the finales in particular, consisting of noisy reiteration of common-place phrases." (Age)

On the 18th, 19th and 20th 'La Fille de Madame Angot' returned. 'Maritana', by William Wallace, played for a week commencing on Monday the 22nd. Then there were a few performances of 'La Belle Helene' and 'La Pericole'.


JULY 1885

Theatre Royal

On Saturday July 11th a six week season featuring Dion Boucicault with full company commenced. [Editor's note: included in the company were Dion's son and daughter who remained in Australia after their father had sailed for America] First was Boucicault's own work 'The Shaughraun'.

"The author comes to us with the prestige of an old favourite, and the reception he met with on Saturday evening from a crowded house at the Theatre Royal was not less a cordial tribute of admiration to the versatile and successful dramatist than a hearty welcome to one whose reputation as an actor had preceded him. The greeting was, indeed, enthusiastic, and it was scarely less so to Miss Boucicault and her brother." (Argus)

On Saturday the 25th Boucicault's 'The Jilt' was produced.

"The author of 'The Jilt' has given us a magnum of the best vintage, but the delicacy of its flavour and the fragrance of its bouquet were not only unappreciated by the majesties in the gallery, but one or two of the most charming passages in the comedy were rendered almost inaudible by the restless inattention." (Argus)
"Miss Nina Boucicault is a charming young lady, but no actress; truthfully speaking, she is but a remove from the amateur." (Scalfax)

Nina Boucicault, coutesy of Leann Richards Nina Boucicault (1867-1850) was the daughter of actors Dion Boucicault and Agnes Robertson, and sister of Dion Boucicault Jr. who formed the influential Brough-Boucicault Comedy Company. She came to Australia with her father in 1885, aged only 18, and stayed for 3 years. After her return to England she had a long and successful stage career, which included creating the tole of Kitty Verdun in Charley's Aunt in 1892 and the title-role in Peter Pan in 1904.

Bijou

Messes Majeroni and Wilsons Comic Opera Company continued their season with the first performance on any stage of Luscombe Searelle's 'Isidora'.

"As the musical composer, Mr. Searelle takes much higher rank than as playwright. His musical ideas flow freely, and with the means at his command, he has given them fair setting and musical colour." (Argus)

Opera House

'The Squatter' continued its successful run. On Saturday the 18th George Darrell's 'The Sunny Side' opened.

"Mr. George Darrell's manly impersonation of a manly part is received with much favour. Miss Emma Fischer, who plays Bubs Berkeley, suffers from a hoarseness which appears to be chronic and grates upon the ear." (Scalfax)

This played through until the 31th.


AUGUST 1885

Bijou

The last night of the opera season was on August 1st. The final night consisted of a variety programme which included Acts 2 and 3 of 'Madame Angot'.

On August 3rd Genevieve Ward and W.H. Vernon opened a season. The first production was 'Forget-Me-Not' by by Herman Merivale and F.C. Grove.

"In the title role Miss Ward has ample scope for proving her genius in portraying nearly every emotion by which a woman can be swayed, and the cheers on her entrance, together with the cordial tribute of admiration paid at the close of each act showed that 'Forget me Not' was not forgotten." (Argus)

On the 15th the company produced 'Mammon', by Sydney Grundy, for the first time in Melbourne.

"Almost the whole weight of the piece is thrown upon Mr. Vernon, who is scarely ever absent from the stage after his first entrance until the fall of the curtain." (Argus)
"Mr. Vernon succeeded unmeasurably in bringing before his admirers Sir Geoffrey in all the vigour and force and naturalness of life." (Telegraph)

This play ran for a week. The final few days of the season consisted of the farcical comedy especially written for W.H. Vernon. This was called 'Snowball'.

"The fun falls off somewhat in the third act, but, to extend a farce to three acts is quite a heroic exploit...Mr. Vernon sustained the character of Felix Featherstone with unflagging spirit." (Argus)

On the same programme was the comedy-farce 'Woodcock's Little Game' by John Maddison Morton.

Genevieve Ward. From the Australasian sketcher, 1884 Genevieve Ward (1833-1922) was the stage name of Lucia Genoveva Teresa, Countess Guerbel. She was born in New York but grew up in France and Italy. Her first stage appearance was at La Scala, Milan, in 'Lucrezia Borgia' in 1856. She lost her singing voice through illness and studied for the stage, coming to England in 1873. For several years she taught vocal music in New York, and studied for the dramatic stage making her first appearance in 1873, in Manchester, as Lady Macbeth. She toured around the world in the 1880s finally returning to England in November, 1885. In 1888 she retired from the stage.

Opera House

George Darrell's 'Back From the Grave' was produced on the 1st.

"There are dreams, visions and chairvoyant scenes enough to satisfy the most rabid admirer of that sort of thing." (Scalfax)

The season drew to a close with a grand benefit performance of 'The Sunny South' on August 8th. The company then headed off to Adelaide.

On Monday 10th George Rignold and Kate Bishop returned for a short season. First up was their production of 'Confusion'.

"Went with the accustomed accompaniment of screaming laughter." (Telegraph)

The following Monday (17th) the production was 'Called Back'.

"The drama went throughout with a smoothness that left nothing to be desired." (Age)

The last night of this was Friday 28th. On the 29th for the first time in Australia 'Lords and Commons', by A.W. Pinero, was mounted.

This play was based on an old Swedish romance all full of characters who "appear to have been conceived by the authoress of the novel or the writer of the comedy in an intensely cynical mood." (Argus)

[Editor's note: This play was first produced in London in November 1883]

Theatre Royal

Dion Boucicault and company produced 'Colleen Bawn' on Monday August 3rd.

"The Elly O'Connor of Miss Boucicault raised her still higher in the public estimation as an emotional actress; its tenderness was so simple and unforced, and the varying feelings which are brought into play were depicted with so much truth to nature, and such an entire absence of stageness, as to win at once upon the sympathies of the audience, so that when at the close of the first act she finds a vent for the tension of her excitement in a sudden storm of tears, she carried the house with her, and was recalled with boisterous effusion." (Argus)

The play finished on Friday 14th. On Saturday 15th 'Arrah-ne-pogue', proceeded by 'Kerry'.

"The curtain came down amidst warm applause, coupled with a call for the principals" (Argus)

This double bill proved so popular that the company continued to play it all the rest of the month. The last performance of the season was on Thursday 27th after which the company headed for Sydney.

On Friday the 28th the Roscians presented a benefit to aid the children's hospital. The performance was 'Hamlet'. The theatre then closed for alterations and improvements.


SEPTEMBER 1885

Bijou

The Ward-Vernon season drew to a close with performances of 'The Queen's Favourite'. On the last night (September 4th) they staged a benefit performance of 'Lucretia Borgia'. The company then play some of the smaller towns in the country.

On Saturday the 5th Philip Day and J.R Greville returned with the farce 'Mixed'. [Editor's note: This was previously produced in London under the title 'The Three Hats' which was an adaptation of the French farcical comedy 'Les Trois Chapeaux'. The first Australian production was at the Sydney Opera House on August 1st, 1885]

"The acting of Mr. Phil Day, as Bosco Blithers, and his ludicrous make up convulsed the audience. It is by far the happiest character in which he appeared." (Age)
"Mr Philip Day, as Bosco Blithers, was the cause of most of the unbounded hilarity which prevailed during the performance. His appearance, his expressions, his gestures and his antics were throughout extravagantly and irresistibly droll, and evoked from time to time outbursts of unusually hearty laughter." (Argus)

This production featured the first appearance in Melbourne of Helene de Valance.

Theatre Royal

The theatre reopened on Saturday September 5th with Frank Thornton and company in 'The Private Secretary'. This was an adaptation from the German by William Gillette.

"The Royal on Saturday was crowded in every part when the curtain rose, and the piece from first to last kept the audience in a continual simmer of merriment." (Age)
"There is scarcely a scintilla of wit in the whole of the farce; but the performance Keeps people in an almost continuous roar of laughter, and, it is a pronounced success. Messrs. Gordon and Hennings have supplied a very pretty set for the second and third acts." (Argus)

Opera House

'Lords and Commons' continued.

"Mr. George Rignold was a manly, if monotonous, Lord Caryl, and Miss Kate Bishop an effective Mrs Devenish." (Table Talk)

The last performance was on Thursday the 10th. On Saturday the 12th 'Romany Rye', by George R. Sims, was mounted.

"Mr. Geo. Rignold appeared to advantage as the manly and vigorous young fellow, whose struggles is another exemplification of the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest...bearing in mind the frequent changes and the enormous amount of stage preparations needed for the production of Romany Rye, Saturday evening's performance was a triumph of skill." (Age)

[Editor's note: This drama was first produced in London in June 1882. The first Australian performance followed a year later]

St George's Hall

Mention should be made here of the return to the Melbourne theatre scene of Harry Rickards (1843 - 1911) and his London comedy company. Rickards had previously visited Australia in 1871 and this time he appeared along with his brother John Charles Leete. [Editor's note: Harry was born Henry Benjamin Leete] The opening work was a 'musical absurdity' that had been especially written for Rickards entitled 'Bric-A-Brac'.

"The whole performance passed off with the greatest success, and the entertainment possesses the merit, often wanting in music-hall performances, of being entirely free from course allusions." (The Age)
"Mr. Rickards, who is supported by a good company, received an overwhelming ovation from a large audience."

the company proved to be very successful and the production continued through the rest of the month. Musical numbers were changed regularly to keep the work fresh.


OCTOBER 1885

Bijou

'Mixed' continued through till Friday October 16th.

"The comedy is amusing, hilariously so, and has one great merit, its brevity." (Table Talk)

The successful season then continued on at the Nugget Theatre.

A newly formed comedy company featuring George Sutton Titheradge, Florence Trevailyn, Robert Brough, Emma Chambers, Dion Boucicault, Jr and others opened a season on October 17th. The first production was the comedy 'Written in Sand', by Frederic W Broughton, followed that same evening by 'Nita's First', by T.G. Warren.

"A good deal of humour is extracted out of the part of Tom Potts by Mr D. Boucicault. Altogether, the dramatist's clever sketch of character was elaborated into a complete and effective portrait by the youthful actor. At the close of the piece the whole of the performers in it were called before the curtain." (Argus on 'Written in Sand')
"'Nita's Pirst' contains some of the elements of comedy, as well us of outrageous farce, but the farcical predominates, and its effect upon the audience depends no less upon the vivacity of the acting than upon the rapidity of the action. The piece waa played to the accompaniment of roars ot laughter, and will be repeated every evening until further notice." (Argus)

Opera House

'Romany Rye' drew to a close. The last performance was on Friday October 9th. On the 10th 'Adam Bede' was mounted for the first time in Australia. This was adapted from the novel of George Eliot (the woman) by W. Howell Poole and George Rignold.

"From a histrionic point of view the play was eminently successful. The part of Hetty Sorrell was truthfully and artistically sustained by Miss Kate Bishop, who did not fall into the blamable zeal of trying to make more of the sorrows of the frail and hard souled girl, that had little else except a pretty face to recommend her, than the occasion justified." (Age)
"It is a dreary drama, and would be almost unsuitable were it not for the frequent sparkles when Mr. Rignold loses his temper and talks back to the gallery." (Scalfax)
"By the gallery boys the piece seemed to be highly relished, and was liberally applauded. They called Mr Rignold before the curtain at the end of three of the acts, and paid a similar compliment to Miss Bishop at the close of the first and third and they signified their approbation of the love making scenes by embarrassing imitations of the sound produced by a kiss." (Argus)

The last night was Friday October 16th. This was followed by the Irish drama 'Peep o' Day' on the 17th and 'Lights o' London', by George Simms, on the 24th. This was the first Melbourne performance of this play.

St George's Hall

'Bric-A-Brac' continued its successful season and finished on Friday the 16th. The next evening the Rickards company produced 'Spoons', a comedy written for Rickards by Garnet Walsh. The piece was not very successful and the Rickards season came to an end on Thursday October 29th. [Editor's note: The Rickards company would continue to tour Australia regularly over the next two decades. Harry turned into a very successful vaudeville showman would return to the UK every so often to sign up new artists, always paying them well.]

Theatre Royal

'The Private Secretary' continued its season. The last night was on Friday October 9th. The company then headed for Adelaide.
On Saturday the 10th there was a return of the twosome J.C. Williamson and Maggie Moore for an extended season. First was the popular 'Struck Oil' which had not played in Melbourne for two years.

"The most cordial of receptions was, as a matter of course, given to Mr. Williamson and Miss Maggie Moore." (Argus)
"Mrs Williamson is as vivacious and arch as ever, and had the house at her feet - metaphorically, of course - at once." (Scalfax)
"Mr. George Gordon had prepared some new sets, of which that of a river scene in the twilight subsequently showing the town upon the banks of the stream brightly illuminated, and another of a street in Oilsberg, were particularly striking." (Argus)

Also on the same evening's entertainment was the afterpiece 'The Chinese Question'.

J.C.Williamson and Maggie Moore in 'Struck Oil' In early 1874 J.C. Williamson was approached by an Irish amateur playwright named Sam W. Smith. He offered Williamson an after piece entitled 'The German Recruit'. Williamson purchased it for $100 and eventually the famous 'Struck Oil' was constructed out of this work. The management of the California Theatre refused to produce the play so Williamson booked an engagement in Salt Lake City. 'Struck Oil' opened on February 23rd, 1874. The Salt Lake City Daily Tribune was favourably impressed: "…we advise all who would enjoy a hearty laugh these dull times, to witness their presentation tonight." The Williamsons took the play to Australia where it became an instant success.


NOVEMBER 1885

Bijou

'Written in Sand' finished on Friday November 6th. On the 7th the Royal Comedy Company gave the first Australian performance of 'The Magistrate' by A.W. Pinero.

"A good comedy, a bright company of actors to play it, and a crowded house are potent elements to make a theatrical entertainment 'go'. All these requisites were found at the Bijou Theatre Saturday evening." (Age)
"A good and honest farce, brimful of fun, with good, rattling dialogue, and side-splitting situations." (Scalfax)
"There is little for Popham, the parlourmaid, to do, but Miss Emma Chambers, with her quick appreciation of character, and her affection for her art, shows that much may be made of a few lines, and that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well." (Argus)

[Editor's note: 'The Magistrate' had been first produced in London earlier in the year.]

Nuggett Theatre

'Mixed' finally finished its long and successful season on Friday November 6th. The Leon and Cushman's Minstrel and Burlesque Opera Troupe took over the theatre for a season. [Editor's note: Australian audiences could never seem to get enough of the American Minstrel Theatre. At the Victoria Hall Hiscocks Federal Minstrels were in residence.]

Theatre Royal

There was a varied and mixed succession of programmes during Melbourne cup week. Rip Van Winkle played on the 2nd. The next night 'Struck Oil' returned. On the 4th a double bill of 'Kerr' and 'Arrah-na-pogue'.

The Argus said "Both Miss Moore and Mr. Williamson took their parts of Kate and Kerry in the first piece, and Arrah and Shaun in the second. It is doubtful whether, in any of the characters they have sustained, they have shown greater ability, or made themselves more popular, than in those named."

On the 5th and 6th 'Rip Van Winkle' then 'Kerry' and 'Arrah' on the 7th. The mixed programme continued into the following week. On Saturday 14th 'Shadows of a Great City', by L.R. Shewell, was performed for the first time in Australia.

"The central character of the drama and the prime favourite with the spectators is that of the Irish washerwoman, as played by Miss Maggie Moore. The actress succeeded in making the part a thoroughly lovable one, true to nature homely but not vulgar and delightful throughout. Miss Kate Bishop, who made her first appearance at the Theatre Royal on Saturday night, met with an enthusiastic reception, and found a congenial part to represent in that of Helen Standish. She was especially acceptable in the love making scene in the third act; although there is a tendency towards becoming mannered in her acting." (Argus)
"Commendation deserves to be liberally bestowed upon the scenic artist and the stage manager. The interior of the pawnbroker's shop was most realistic and the view of the New York harbor by moonlight a masterpiece of stage scenery. A view of Harlem River was equally effective." (Age)

Opera House

The successful 'Lights o' London' continued with steady success. During the final week Kate Bishop left for the Theatre Royal and Miss Roland Watt-Phillips took her place. The Simns drama finished on November 20th. On the 21st the dramatised version of 'Faust' was produced.

"In Mr. H.E. Hambro we have a newcomer, who made a favourable impression as Valentine. His representation caught and pleased the eye more than the mind. Mr Rignold did absolute justice to Mephistopheles, or that he fulfilled to the letter one's notions what such a personage should say and do, or how he ought to do it." (Age)

The play was elaborately mounted with a full chorus and military band. There were even giant bells, valued at £750, for the Cathedral scene.


DECEMBER 1885

Bijou

The Royal Comedy Company continued their season of Pinero's 'Magistrate'.

"Few comedy companies have appeared in Melbourne so strong at all points. Both the comedy and the manner of the presentation must recommend itself to favor." (Age)

This was so popular that it ran right through until the end of December.

Opera House

The George Rignold company continued with their spectacular production of 'Faust'.

The Age said that this was "so well put upon the stage that it is assured a good run"

This did prove very popular and ran until Monday December the 21st.
On December the 24th George Rignold took the title role in 'Henry V'.

"Mr. Geo. Rignold finds Shakespeare too much for him if the lines are to be spoken otherwise than in a hurried manner and with monotony of tone. However these are peculiarities natural to the actor, not to be too seriously considered when general effects produced are so good" (Age)

Theatre Royal

After the audiences for 'Shadows' dwindled the play was replaced by 'Saints and Sinners', by Henry Arthur Jones (1851-1929) on Monday the 7th of December. This saw a return of actress Essie Jenyns.

"(Essie Jenyns) has not, I fear, improved during her absence from the stage. She used to be fresh and natural; but her acting last night was simply acting; she was counting the bouquets thrown on the stage during one of her finest scenes." (Scalfax)

This finished at Christmas.

The annual pantomime opened on Saturday the 26th. This year it was 'Sleeping Beauty, or Harlequin Mother Goose, and Seven Champions of Christendom'. This was written and adapted by Garnet Walch. Emma Chambers played Prince Austral and Amy Horton played Princess Beauty.

"The performance was a succession of brilliant pictures, pageants, and spectacles" (Argus) "Not one of the characters can sing, and the music selected is uncommonly dreary and commonplace." (Scalfax)

Nuggett Theatre

Leon and Cashman's Burlesque Opera and Musical Comedy Troupe continued their successful season. On Boxing Day they produced a show called 'Adonis' which was a thinly disguised version of the Gilbert play 'Pygmalion and Galatea'.

"When the curtain was raised upon him to his final transformation, Mr. Leon engrossed the entire attention of the audience, and heightened the already favourable impression entertained regarding his talent." (Argus)

This production finished on January 8th, 1886.

Theatre in Melbourne 1884

Theatre in Melbourne 1886