Theatre in Sydney 1891
"I notice by reports in the Melbourne papers that during Madame Bernhardt's season in the Southern capital it was the custom of the ladies who patronised tho stalls to remove their hats during the performance. This was not done, as some might suppose, as a mark of reverence to a great artiste, but to enable people who had the misfortune to have back seats to see the acting. Will the ladies of Sydney kindly extend their clemency in like manner? It is to be sincerely hoped they will."
(Letter to the Editor. Sydney Morning Herald July 8th, 1891)
Theatre Royal, Sydney. 1890
The new theatre which has lately been erected in Castlereagh-street, on the site formerly occupied by the Academy of Music, was thrown open last evening to a number of prominent patrons of the drama, and other gentlemen interested in the well-being of the stage and the theatrical profession. This, the latest addition to the homes of amusement, provided for the residents of Sydney and surroundings, has been named the "Garrick", and should, in the hands of its present management and by virtue of the facilities afforded for the production of the plays which may from time to time be placed upon its stage, be able to enlist a large share of support from the public. The building proper has a frontage of 66 feet to Castlereagh-street, with an average depth of 180ft. The forward portion consists of an hotel, with a bar on the ground floor and the usual adjuncts. It gives also the various entrances to the theatre, each of the three provided being 8ft wide. The size of the auditorium of the theatre is 45ft x 65ft. It is divided into sections to be known as the stalls, orchestra chairs, dress circle, family circle, and private boxes. Of the stalls and orchestra chairs there are in all about 450; there are 165 seats in the dress circle, 350 persons can be accommodated in the family circle, and the boxes are four in number, so that there is accommodation for close upon 1000 individuals. The dress circle is reached by a flight of marble steps 8ft in width; all the other stairs are constructed of iron between bricks walls, with hardwood facings and landings of concrete laid with tiles. It is considered, therefore, by the architect that in this particular the building is as proof against fire as it well can be. The stage measures 45ft x 50ft, and there is a property-room of the same dimensions underneath. The dressing-rooms, of which there are six small and two large, are at the rear, and a capacious scene-dock is about to be built. The ceiling of the auditorium is dome-shaped. For the comfort of visitors this theatre has been fitted with a sliding roof 10ft in diameter, which can easily be manipulated by one man. The flooring rests upon a solid concrete bass. As regards the orchestra, a speciality has been introduced. It has been built a few feet below the front of the orchestra chairs. The audience will, accordingly, look over the heads of the musicians without any difficulty whatever. The stalls are placed upon a rather a steep incline, which is a feature altogether in favour of visitors, and, while a really good view of the stage can be obtained from this quarter, the same may be said with respect to all other parts of the house. In the family-circle, which is next above the dress-circle, and, in fact, the only tier over it, the stage can be seen even from the corners adjourning the proscenium. The inner dimensions of the proscenium are 25ft x 25ft. This part of the building is of brick construction,a nd the decorated portions are formed of pressed zinc, which are picked out in blue and gold. The brick wall is carried several feet into the ground, and also some distance above the ceiling, as a safeguard against the extension of fire in case of an outbreak arising. The private boxes are embellished in light tints and gold, as also are the facings of the circles. Orange and blue predominate in the drapings of the boxes, and these colours are found to harmonise well with the general surroundings. Upon the ceiling are paintings of appropriate subjects by Signor Lorenzini. The dress circle and stalls are seated with comfortable opera chairs of American manufacture. A deep red is the colour of the upholstering. Leading from the dress circle are various rooms for the convenience of ladies and a smoking-room for gentlemen. The curtain is a satin-faced woolen material of fine texture, and a rather bright-red hue. An act-drop, representing Lago D'Orta, Italy, has been specially painted for the theatre by Mr. W.J. Wilson, who has skilfully and artistically portrayed his subject. It has been much admired by those who have seen it. The system of lighting which will be relied upon is Edison's principle of installation with incandescent electric lamps, of which about 250 have been placed in position. Where there are clusters, the brackets used are of floral design. Accidents have been guarded against by the laying on of gas through the building. The theatre is to be opened with an adaptation of Ouida's novel "Moths" on Monday next.
From the Sydney Morning Herald Saturday December 20th, 1890
A POPULAR THEATRICAL CITY
Whereas theatre in Melbourne started to suffer during 1891 Sydney Theatre seemed to continue to flourish. There were still a few signs of struggle with some very short seasons and a few abrupt closures but generally people still managed to get out for an evening of entertainment. There were a few Australian firsts during 1891: Jerome K. Jerome's drama 'Barbara', the comedy 'Sunlight and Shadow' by Richard Carton and the farcical comedy by William Lestocq and Walter Everard entitled 'Uncles and Aunts'. Click on a month and check what was happening in Sydney theatres for the year 1891. All reviews are from the 'Sydney Morning Herald' unless otherwise stated.
This theatre was currently leased by Messes Brough and Boucicault whose comedy company were currently on stage with 'Dr Bill' which featured Myra Kemble. 'Dr Bill' was a farcical comedy adapted from the French by Hamilton Aide. This had opened on November 22nd to good reviews.
"Both in appearance and acting Miss Kemble showed that she had not failed to profit by the experience acquired in the old country. Her style has gained in refinement and finish, and though the part of Mrs Horton does not call for the exercise of any great dramatic ability, her humorous delineation of it served to indicate the possession of much power in reserve."
The last night was Monday the 22nd after which Myra Kemble headed for Melbourne.
On boxing night the comedy company produced 'Impulse', adapted from the French by R.C. Stephenson, with G.S. Titheridge and Maud Williamson making her first appearance in Sydney.
Miss Williamson's success last night depended mostly on her quiet effectiveness and artistic reserve, and her very evident feeling of the real character of the woman she represented."
Her Majesty's Theatre
At this theatre the lessess was George Rignold. Guest artist was William Rignold (1836-1904), brother of George. The production was 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'. This opened on November 22nd.
"It is fortunate for the present revival that it possesses so ideal a Falstaff as Mr. William Rignold. During his stay in this country Mr. Rignold has not been seen to greater advantage."
The William Rignold season finished on the 19th with a grand benefit for the star on the 20th. Rignold then headed for Melbourne where he set sail back to England for a brief visit. The theatre closed on the 22nd and 23rd.
On Wednesday the 24th Maggie Moore took the lead in the annual pantomime. This year it was the George Rignold production of 'Dick Whittington'.
"The acting honours are carried off by Miss Maggie Moore, who is apparently endowed with endless energy and extraordinary voice power...she is on stage in almost every scene, and she has, at least, one song in each. Her fund of good spirits is seemingly inexhaustible...Mr. Alfred Clint's splendid transformation scene, with its beautifully painted shells, its beehives, and its astonishing kaleidoscopic fan, drew forth a well-deserved and prolonged burst of applause."
At this theatre 'The Silver King', by Henry A. Jones and Henry Herman, opened on December 6th. This featured J.R. Greville and newcomer Laurence Cautley.
"Mr. Laurence Cautley, who made his first appearance in Sydney on Saturday, may be congratulated on his success. If nervousness had made his indistinct he might have been forgiven, for it is a trying ordeal for any actor to essay such a long and arduous character as that of the Nevada Silver King."
The last night of the production was on Thursday the 18th.
J.L. Toole sailed in from New Zealand for a series of final performances. On Friday the 19th 'Paul Pry', by John Poole (1786-1872), was performed for the first time in Sydney. This had its first London production at the Haymarket Theatre in 1825.
"Mr. Toole's embodiment of the character of the busy-body, so closely sketched by John Poole in 1825, is one of the most perfect in the whole range of Mr. Toole's long list of comic characters."
On the same programme was 'Off the Line' which was an adaptation from the French by Clement Scott. 'Paul Prey' was repeated on the following Tuesday with 'Dearer Than Life', by H. J. Byron, on the Saturday and Monday and on the final night, Wednesday, 'Dot' was produced. Wherever he appeared J. L. Toole always seemed to receive great reviews.
|John Lawrence Toole (1830-1906) was born in London. He was educated at the City of London School and worked briefly in a wine merchant’s counting house. He made his first public appearance at the Haymarket Theatre and his professional debut at the Queen’s Theatre, Dublin in 1852. He opened several theatres in London including the Charing Cross Theatre (later O'Tooles) which he ran from 1879 to 1885. He toured Australia in 1890/1891. Crippled by gout, he left the stage in 1895 and retired to Brighton.|
On Friday the 26th the theatre's annual pantomime opened. This year it was 'Cinderella, the Prince, the Fairy, Gold and Silver and the Little Glass Slipper'. This featured Aggie Kelton in the title role with J.R. Greville and A. G. Poulton as the ugly sisters.
"Mr. George Musgrove has dealt with a lavish hand in the production. It was abundantly evident last night that he had spared no expense on it, while his stage-manager, Mr. Frank Emery, had done his share of the work so well that the 'opening' was over, without a single discordant note, shortly after 10 o'clock."
Sydney welcomed this new theatre on Monday the 23rd. The first work presented on the stage was 'Moths', by Ouida, which had been adapted by Henry Hamilton. It featured Chas Cartwright and Olga Nethersole making their first appearance in Australia.
"Miss Nethersole is an actress who is destined to excel in emotional and powerful parts. Her style is unexaggerated, she keeps her forces well in hand, but, better than all this, she has the gift of sympathy. Mr Cartwright's rendering of Zouroff is powerful and fascinating. His style is quiet, and opposed to that of the ordinary melo-dramatic villain."
'Cinderella' continued its successful season.
"Mr. Gordon's scenery..is, if anything, too good for the pantomime. It is certainly beautiful, and it is likely to win much admiration. Mr. Gordon responded to a loud call on the termination of the transformation scene."
Owing to prior arrangements the season had to terminate at the end of the month.
Her Majesty's Theatre
'Dick Whittington' continued its successful season.
"Embellished with many a catchy musical number, enlivened with several dainty dances, dressed and staged with good taste and picturesque effect, and, above all, acted with animation, the pantomime of 'Dick Whittington', bids fair to add yet another to Mr. Rignold's long list of successes."
'Harvest', by H.H. Hamilton, opened on Saturday January 10th.
"The cast in 'Harvest' is certainly a very felicitous one. The part of Brenda Musgrave is taken by Miss Williamson, who has already shown on these boards her capacity for acting the past of a wife estranged from her husband...the dialogue is full of crispness, and the play itself bears marked evidence of having been written by an accomplished penman."
'Harvest' finished on January 30th.
'The Middleman' opened on January 10th.
"Mr. Cartwright plays superbly throughout. He does not miss a single point, nor does he over do a single action or emphasis."
The production played until the end of the month.
'The Idler', by C. Haddon Chambers, opened on January 31st.
"Fortunate, indeed, is the author who can obtain such clever exponents of his characters as Mr. Charles Cartwright, the central figure of this play, and Miss Olga Nethersole, the heroine...the Garrick Theatre has already a reputation for the finesse with which its productions are mounted, and, in the present case there is every evidence of that careful attention to detail which is so necessary in order that a play of this class may have its proper tone and colour."
[Editor's note: 'The Idler' was first seen at the Lyceum Theatre, New York, in November 1890] The last night of the Cartwright-Nethersole was on Friday February 13th.
O On Saturday the 14th the Montague-Turner Opera Company opened at the theatre. The company was headed by Annis Montage and Charles Turner who took the leads in all their productions. The first work of the season was the ever popular 'Maritana' by William Wallace (1812-1865).
"The representation was characterised by intelligence and vivacity superior to such as has often enough been seen in Sydney before now in connection with companies much longer established."
'Maritana' held the stage for over a week. On the 25th, 26 and 27th the company mounted 'Il Trovatore'
"It may be said that the production as a whole was fairly adequate, and that the audience appeared well satisfied with what was provided for its entertainment."
The Irish comedian, Gratton Riggs, after an absense from Sydney of five years, was back for a season. Opening on January 31st was 'Arrah-Na-Pogue' by Dion Boucicault.
"Frequent applause greeted his efforts on Saturday night, and as usual Mr. Riggs carried the sympathies of his audience with the character...Miss Appleton played the part of Arrah Meelish with Celtic piquancy and a pretty brogue, and with a correct grasp of the character of the Irish peasant girl."
[Editor's note: This play had its first performance in Dublin in 1864]
On February 7th 'The Irish Detective' was produced. In this play Gratton Riggs played seven characters.
"Mr. Riggs excels as, what is known on the music-hall stage, a 'quick change artist'. He is also praised for his freedom from exaggeration."
On February 14th 'Eileen Oge', by Edmund Falconer, was mounted.
"Mr. Gratten Riggs possesses the quiet, droll, infectious humour which is so necessary for such a character as Brian Farrell. His easy, natural style is eminently suited to this character."
On the 21st 'Shin Fane' was produced.
"Mr. Riggs's embodiment of the rustic simpleton is excellent, and, in the delicate feat of assuming female attire, he clearly proves that it is not necessary to be vulgar in order to be effective."
The last night of the season was Friday the 27th which was a benefit for the popular actor.
|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.|
At this theatre there was a Sydney first. This was 'Comrades' by the young playwright Brandon Thomas and B.C. Stephenson. This had first played at the Court Theatre, London, in 1882. The first Australian performance was in Melbourne in July, 1888.
"The honours of the acting are undoubtedly carried off by Mr. Titheradge, who acquits himself with conspicuous ability. His naturalness of manner, his avoidance of excess, is an important feature in a remarkable interpretation."
'Comrades' finished on February 13th. On Saturday 14th 'The Jilt', by Dion Boucicault, was mounted.
"The company is fresh from a successful revival of 'The Jilt' in Melbourne, so that it goes without saying that all concerned play their parts with facility and smoothness."
Her Majesty's Theatre
'Dick Whittington' concluded after fifty performances on February 14th.
On Monday the 16th George Rignold and Maggie Moore appeared in their own production of the ever popular 'Arrah-Na-Pogue'. This had been planned well before the Granton Riggs season had been announced.
"Mr. Rignold's production will rank with anything he has yet placed on this fine stage. His portrayal of 'Shaun' is one of the very best performances he has given us" (The Referee)
Bland Holt and company took over this theatre for a season. 'Master and Man', by Henry Pettitt and George Sims, was performed for the first time in Sydney. Besides Bland Holt and his wife the company featured Walter Howe, Albert Norman, Kate Bishop, Flora Anstead and Arthur Lawrence.
The play was "superbly staged and evenly acted, was listened to attentively and rewarded with constant abundant applause."
The play finished on Friday the 20th. On March 21st 'The Union Jack' by Pettitt and Grundy was staged.
"The play has been staged with singular care, Mr. George Gordon's scenery being fresh and as beautiful as ever."
On Saturday 28th there was the first Sydney production of 'The Golden Ladder' by George Sims and Wilson Barrett.
The reviewer said that the play "is in every respect the best production which Mr. Bland Holt has given us this season. The play is healthy in tone, dramatic in effect, and lightened up with much pleasant humour, and the acting and mounting of it leave nothing to be desired."
'The Jilt' had its last performance on Monday March 9th. On the 10th T.W.(Thomas William) Robertson's comedy 'School' was produced with a return of George W. Anson (1847-1920) in the cast.
"Here it is again, as fresh as ever, with a cast that presents the play in the best possible light. It is thoroughly well acted by all concerned."
This finished on the 27th.
At this theatre the popular 'The Bohemian Girl' opened on February 28th.
"The vocal efforts of the principals of this opera company were not up to the average of previous performances, but it must be confessed that in all else the popular opera was presented in such a fashion as to gain the constant applause of most of the audience."
It must be noted that these singers are on stage six out of seven nights - sometimes sustaining the most difficult of roles. 'Il Trovatore' returned for one performance on Saturday 7th. On Monday 9th Thomas' 'Mignon' was staged.
"The Montage-Turner Company have not only, herein done its best, as far as regards the present season, but also that it has proved itself well able to give a more than credible representation of a work which ranks among the best productions of operatic composers now living."
For this production Edith Moore made her first stage appearance and "achieved a triumph of which she may well be proud."
On Monday 16th 'Faust' was mounted.
"The different scenes were, without exception, well arranged; and the choral singing and orchestration under the conductorship of Mr. Rivers Allpress were highly credible."
On the 21st Auber's favourite 'Fra Diavolo' opened.
"Miss Annis Montague gave a consistent portrayal of the character of the innkeeper's daughter. Both vocally and histrionically she scored a success. Her voice was in excellent form, and more than once did she arouse the audience to a pitch of enthusiasm."
The season concluded on the 25th. The final two performances were devoted to 'Maritana'.
On March the 28th John F. Sheridan and company appeared in 'Bridget O'Brien, Esquire'. This was a first performance in Sydney.
"Mr. Sheridan, of course, continues in his special role of the widow, and keeps the fun going with unflagging spirit, and the assumed dignity which a trip to Paris has given to the Hibernian dame is a most amusing foil to her native simplicity and candour."
|John F. Sheridan (1843-1908) specialised in sophisticated 'widow' roles and known the world over as the Widow O'Brien in 'Fun on the Bristol' which had played throughout many parts of the English speaking world with much success. The first performances in Australia were at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne, in 1884. Sheridan left his home in Rhode Island in 1882 expecting to return in three months but eight years on he was still touring.|
Her Majesty's Theatre
'Arrah' concluded on March 6th. On the 7th 'The Colleen Bawn' was produced.
"The scenery, although not new, is, nevertheless, effective, and the play worked with such smoothness on Saturday that it was over long before eleven o'clock."
'Colleen Braun' alternated with 'Arrah' from the 16th to the 20th. On the 21st John Baldwin Buckstone's military musical comedy 'The Daughter of the Regiment' was mounted.
"The part affords ample scope for a clever actress, and Miss Maggie Moore makes every possible use of the opportunity."
'Daughter' was staged on a double bill with the sketch 'The Fool of the Family'.
'The Golden Ladder' finished on Friday the 17th of April. On the 18th the Sims/Pettitt play 'London Day by Day' had its first production in Sydney.
"The fresh, breezy, manly style of Mr. Walter Howe is happily suited to the hero, Frank Granville; while for the heroine we have Miss Kate Bishop, who is always sympathetic, intelligent, and interesting."
This played well into May.
Her Majesty's Theatre
'My Jack', by Benjamin Landeck, opened on Saturday 28th March. This play marked the return to the stage of Mrs George Rignold as Dorothy Prescott.
Mrs George Rignold "is full of pain and sorrow, as she is singled out for the special attack of most of the villains who roam through the various phrases of the piece."
The play finished on April 24th. On Saturday 25th the George Rignold company mounted 'The Corsican Brothers'. Reviews at first appeared luke warm.
"There was much that was good in Saturday's representation, as it stood, but we fancy that the actor-manager's desire to give his patrons something new has led him into an error on this occasion"
The play continued the rest of the month and into May.
'The Schoolmistress', by Pinero, was staged on Saturday 28th March. Brough and Boucicault had secured the services of Maggie Moore for this production.
"Laughter and applause succeeded each other rapidly as successive scenes of this gay little farce unfolded themselves in quick action."
This production finished on Thursday 16th April. On Friday 17th F.C. Burnand's 'The Colonel' was mounted.
"The play is. at any rate, adequately represented...it was on the whole, well received last evening. If it fell flat occasionally, the failure is to be attributed to the play rather than the players."
(Editor's note: This play was first performed at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, in 1881) The play lasted a week and was replaced by the farcical comedy 'Modern Wives' on the 25th of which there were only six performances.
"Mr. Ward is as effective as usual, although not without his customary tendency to indulge overmuch in emphasis and not leave enough to the imagination or discernment of his audience."
'Bridget O'Brien' finished on April 24th. On the 25th John F. Sheridan appeared in 'Little Black Eyed Susan'.
"That there is abundant fun in the piece is undeniable and it is equally beyond question that the large audience that assembled to see it on Saturday night were kept amused all through."
The play finished on May 1st.
For the first time in Sydney 'The Bells of Haslemere', by Henry Pettitt and Sydney Grundy, opened on May 9th.
"The arduous character of the hero, Frank Beresford, is taken by Mr. Walter Howe, who plays throughout with an air of sincerity and a manly, convincing style...he sustains the part with abundant energy and good discretion."
On the 23rd the Bland Holt season drew to a close with the comedy drama 'Taken From Life' by Henry Pettitt. [Editor's note: Charles Warner directed and starred in this drama which opened at the Aldephi Theatre, London, in December 1881] The last night was Saturday 30th.
On Saturday May 2nd 'Imprudence', by A.W. Pinero, opened.
"Mr. and Mrs Brough, with their clever companions, have instilled fresh life and much hearty fun into a play which has hitherto been considered cruel, rather than clever-amusing, but steeped in cynicism."
The Echo was more positive and thought that the production "as a whole is most credible and effective, and not likely to be excelled in Australia within the ken of the present generation."
Maybe, but the play only ran a week. On May 9th the comedy, by Sydney Grundy, 'The Silver Shield' opened.
"A large share of the success of this revival is certainly due to the able acting of Mr. Cecil Ward, who grips firmly and intelligently the character of Tom Potter, the artist...another praiseworthy performance is that of Miss Brenda Gibson, whose Lucy Preston marks a considerable advance on anything that she has previously done."
On the 16th 'Tuned Up', by Mark Melford, played for six nights only.
"It is acted with spirit, point, and harmony by Mr. Robert Brough and his supporters who, from constant association, play remarkably well together."
This was proceeded by Jerome K. Jerome's one act domestic drama 'Barbara'. On Saturday 23th there was the first production in Australia of the farcical comedy 'Jane' by Harry Nicholls (1852-1926) and William Lestocq.
"Applause and laughter reigned supreme. The house, including several rows of reserved stalls, was crowed throughout, and all the spectators joined in the incessant merriment evoked by this funny piece."
This had a most successful run.
The ever popular 'Fun on the Bristol' opened on May 2nd and drew good houses for its six performances. The John F. Sheridan season then came to a close.
On May the 9th was a farewell season by Janet Achurch and Charles Charrington. First was Charles Reade's 'Masks and Faces'.
"All the parts of the house were well patronised, the dress circle in particular being completely filled by a discriminating audience...Miss Achurch has brought together an excellent company for the presentation of a play like this."
On May 23rd the comedy drama 'Forget-me-not', by Herman Merivale and F.C. Grove, opened.
"Miss Achurch presented the finest and most artistic piece of work she has yet done on the stage in Sydney."
This ran for one week.
Her Majesty's Theatre
'The Corsican Brothers' continued successfully enough until Friday the 15th. On the 16th George Rignold and company produced 'Siberia' by Bartley Campbell.
"Not one of its short, crisp acts missed fire on the first night. The curtain never fell without the prolonged and stimulating applause of the immense audience."
The play ran the rest of the month.
'Jane' finished its run on Friday June 19th.
On June 20th 'Evangeline' was mounted for the first time in Australia. This was directed by the composer, Edward Rice, and featured American actors George Fortescue, Joseph Harris and Virginia Earl. Locals made up the rest of the company.
"It is just what it professes to be - an extravagance pure and simple, bright, cheerful and entertaining from first to last."
The show ran the rest of the month to successful houses.
On Tuesday June 2nd at the Theatre Royal the Williamson and Garner opera Company mounted Gilbert and Sullivan's 'The Gondoliers' for the first time in Sydney. This featured Charles Ryley, Florence Young and Elsie Cameron all making their first appearances in Sydney.
"The interpretation of the piece..is all that could be wished. Mr. Henry Bracy, who, as stage director of the company, is to be credited with the smoothness of last night's performance, makes a welcome re-appearance among us as Marco Palmieri, a part which he sings with ease and plays with a pleasant manner."
The operetta was a huge hit playing into July.
'Camille' opened on Saturday May 30th and played for a week. This was followed on June 6th by the drama 'A New Magdalen' by Wilki Collins. This played for three performances only followed by four performance of the comedy drama 'The Money Spinner' by Pinero. The final few nights of the season were taken with a return of 'Forget-me-not', 'The Doll's House' and 'Adrienne Lecouvreur'. The final benefit night of the season was on Friday June 26th.
Her Majesty's Theatre
The American play 'The County Fair', by Nigel Burgess, was produced for the first time in Australia on June 6th. The highlight of the evening was a mile long horse race using real horses and jockeys. The show was directed by Frank Currier who was in the original New York production. [Editor's note: There was incorrect information over this particular play. The author was Charles Barnard (1838-1920). This was written especially for the female impersonator Neil Burgess who was associated closely with the work. Hence the confusion over the author. The first performance was in New York in March 1889]
"The great effect..is reserved for the last act. This arrangement is satisfactory, inasmuch as it send the audience away in the best of humour. But it also places the performers in a somewhat trying position, as they have to bear the brunt of a natural impatience to see the realistic race."
'The County Fair' finished on Friday June 26th. Next up was the first appearance this season of William Rignold who took a double role in 'The Lyons Mail', an adaptation of 'Le Courier de Lyons'.
"Mr. William Rignold played the dual character of Dubosc-Lesurques on Saturday night with remarkable power, abundant realism, an artist's perception of the part, and a most gratifying measure of success, repeatedly acknowledged by rounds of well-deserved applause."
The season due to a close on Tuesday July 7th.
Her Majesty's Theatre
The highlight of the theatrical year occurred on Wednesday July 8th. This was the very much talked about Sarah Bernhardt season which would have its final Australian performances in Sydney. The season opened with 'La Dame aux Camelias'. Programmes changed daily with performances of 'La Tosca', 'Fedora' and 'Cleopatra'. Reviews were always positive and consistent.
The critic talking about 'La Tosca' said the familiar text "was thus revealed in all the dread reality with which the impressive art of this great actress can invest it. It is not too much to say that the audience was painfully affected by the representation."
On 'Cleopatra' the same critic said that "it is now not difficult to believe that the French actress, who has Eastern blood in her veins and the Orient fire in her heart and brain, more closely resembles the Cleopatra of history than any actress who has heretofore essayed the character."
Other works performed in the season included 'Jeanne d'Arc', 'Frou Frou' and the first performance anywhere of an original work entitled 'Pauline Blanchard' by a young author M.A. Darmont.
The last night of 'The Gondoliers' was on Tuesday, July 7th.
The George Rignold company opened on Wednesday July 8th with an Australian first. This was his first appearance at the Theatre Royal after an absense of five years. The work was 'Flying For Justice' by Mark Melford. This featured English actor William Rignold (1836-1904). No relation.
"As Haldane Gully Mr. William Rignold has the outstanding part in the piece, and he succeeds in making it a finished piece of villainy."
The play finished on Wednesday July 29th.
On June 27th there was another Sydney first. This was the farcical comedy 'Our Flat' written by Mrs H. Musgrave. The cast included Laurence Cautley, E.W. Royce, Hans Philips, Edwin Kelly, Mary Kingsley and Marie Brooks.
"The audience took to the piece kindly from the start. They laughed at the financial troubles of the unsuccessful author and his wife, and the arrival of each fresh dun was only an occasion for renewed merriment."
The last night was July 18th. On Monday 20th for the first time in Sydney there was mounted the military comedy drama 'Heroes, or the White Feather'.
"Mr. Edwin Kelly, as the Major-General, gave one of the most effective impersonations in the cast, and he looked the veteran officer to the life."
Owing to the luke warm reviews 'Heroes' was withdrawn on July 24th. 'Nina's First', by T.G. Warren, was quickly put into rehearsal and this opened on the 25th.
"On Saturday the farcical comedy went hilariously, and with a briskness which does not always obtain on a first night. Despite the interruptions of a noisy fellow in the gallery, which forced Mr. Royce to remark 'when that gentleman up there has done talking, I may be allowed to say a word', with the result that silence was obtained for the rest of the evening."
'Our Flat' returned for the last three nights of the season.
The 'Evangeline' company played virtually all of July to packed houses. The play finally finished on Friday July 31st.
On Saturday August 1st there was a reappearance of Charles Cartwright, Olga Nethersole and Company in the drama 'The Profligate' by Pinero. This was the first Sydney performance of the work.
"Urged on by the vociferous applause and unstinted approval of the delighted audience which filled the Garrick Theatre on Saturday, the principals acted from the first night at high pressure...Mr. Cartwright had organised a very efficient company for the representation of the drama, and the performance as a whole was excellent."
On August 15th the company mounted 'The Idler', by C. Haddon Chambers.
"Miss Olga Nethersole played her part as might be expected by those who have seen her in this or, indeed, any of her roles, with refined grace and much winsome delicacy of manner."
The last night was Monday 24th. On Tuesday 25th for the first time in Australia the comedy 'A Scrap of Paper', by John Palgrave Simpson, was mounted.
"The performance last night was all that could be desired for though the audience was not large, the bright little play went crisply and smoothly to the pleasant accompaniments of frequent applause and still more frequent laughter."
The last night was the 29th.
At the Criterion the Brough-Bouchcault Comedy Company, with Myra Kemble, returned for a season. 'Dr Bill' opened on Saturday August 1st. This work was adapted from the French by Hamilton Aide and had been purchased in London by Myra Kemble who held the Colonial Rights.
"The house was packed from floor to ceiling, and the audience, in their consistent and uninterrupted enjoyment, may be said to have laughed from beginning to end of the piece...in the title role Mr. Brough was, if anything, more successful than ever."
On the 22nd the comedy 'A Night Off, or a Page from Balzac' opened. This was an adaptation from the German of Franz von Schonthan.
"The Criterion Theatre was crowded on Saturday by a hilarious audience, and this in spite of the fact that the piece of the evening was then on trial for the third time."
The last night was Friday 28th. On Saturday 29th 'Dr Bill' was revived for five more nights.
Her Majesty's Theatre
Ofter her last performance on Wednesday 29th Sarah Bernhardt moved theatres to the Theatre Royal where she continued her season of nine further performances opening with 'Theodora' on Thursday 30th.
Sport took center stage on Thursday 30th when the comedy drama "Honest Hearts and Willing Hands" was presented. This play, by Duncan B. Harrison (who also appeared in it), was an excuse to tote champion boxer John L. Sullivan (1858-1918).
"The author of the piece played John Daly last night, while John L. Sullivan presented his brother James. The speeches of the former are as long as his brother's are brief, and might perhaps be curtailed with advantage to the action as well as the duration of the piece. "
This finished on Saturday 8th and the company headed down to Melbourne.
On Monday the 10th George and William Rignold, with Kate Bishop, and the full Her Majesty's Dramatic Company opened for a season. This was the end of four years in which George had been manager of the theatre and to celebrate the company played some of the more popular plays in the repertoire. First was 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'.
"(This play) was staged with the same completeness, and played with the same excellent effects as on its first presentation, and the patrons of the theatre were thus enabled to enjoy a return once more to sterling English drama, played in their own familiar tongue."
On the 22nd 'The Lights o' London', by George Sims, was mounted.
"Mr. W. Rignold was seen for the first time as Jarvis, the jovial showman, and, aided by Mrs. George Rignold, than whom a more kindly, large-hearted Mrs. Jarvis could not be wished, kept the house in a roar of laughter in the low-comedy scenes."
The play proved successful enough to run until the middle of September.
The Sarah Bernhardt season finally came to its conclusion at the Theatre Royal on Monday August 8th with a performance of 'La Dame aux Camelias'.
In summing up the season the Sydney Herald reviewer said "Australian playgoers of the present day have now a standard by which to judge favourites, both former and to come."
On August 10th there was a return of the Royal Comic Opera Company. 'The Old Guard', by Planquette, featured William Elton, Henry Bracey, May Pollard, Violet Varley, Flora Graupner and Howard Vernon.
"The house was crowded, as it always is on the first night of a performance by the Royal Comic Opera Company, and the old favourites were instantly recognised and warmly welcomed by the house."
The operetta played the rest of the month.
On Monday August 31st the Cartwright-Nethersole Company produced 'Moths' which played for just five performances.
"The piece went wonderfully well, and that it did so is due to three factors in the ensemble - judicious, compression, handsome staging, and the forcible acting of the two principals."
On Saturday September 5th the comedy drama 'The Ambassador' was mounted for the first time in Australia. This was an adaptation, by F.C. Phillips and Sydney Grundy, from Phillips' own novel 'The Daughter of the Dream'.
"Of Mr. Cartwright's impersonation of the impossible Dean, it may be said that it left little or nothing to be desired as a character study...Mr. Cartwright's Dean, with his dun-dodging, his stimulants, and his intervals of meditation, is a most undignified dignitary."
The last night was on September 11th. On Saturday 12th 'The Middleman' was revived for three nights only. This was followed by 'The Profligate', 'A Scrap of Paper' and 'The Idler'. On Saturday 19th there was another Australian first. This was 'A Village Priest' by Sydney Grundy. [Editor's note: This was an adaptation of 'La Secret de la Terreuse', a melodrama by William Busnach and Jean-Pierre Cauvin]
"This is a good play, excellent all-round acting, and a cast including some staunch popular favourites, and it need scarcely be said that the first production took place under the most gratifying circumstances."
The last night of the Cartwright-Nethersole season in Australia was on Friday September 25th. The two leading artists of the company then went their seperate ways but both eventually returned to England.
On Saturday 26th there was a farewell season by popular Australian actor and author George Darrell. Opening this season was Darrell's own 'The Sundowner'.
Reviews were lukewarm saying that the work was "merely commonplace, and to say that is to say everything that need be said. Mr. Darrell has not only staged his drama well, but, as such pieces go, it is by no means ill-acted."
The play ran for two weeks.
The last night of 'The Old Guard' was on September 5th. On Monday the 7th the company mounted 'Iolanthe' for the first time in Sydney since February 1883. Sydney Deane, Howard Vernon, Henry Bracey, Charles Ryley, Violet Varley and Elsie Cameron were all in the cast.
"The new cast proved, on the whole, a strong one; though in a work of this kind one feels that the Royal Comic Opera Company sustains a serious loss in the absence of Miss nellie Stewart...the chief feature in the new cast is Mr. Charles Ryley's Strephon, which is the best yet seen in Sydney."
The afterpiece of the evening was the popular 'Charity Begins at Home'. The last night was the 12th after which the company headed for Adelaide.
On Monday September 14th the London Gaiety Company returned to Sydney after an absense of three years. First up was 'Ruy Blas and the Blase Roue', by A.C. Torr and Herbert F. Clark with music by Meyer Lutz. This had first been performed in London in September 1889. The Sydney cast featured Fred Leslie, Grace Pedley, Sylvia Grey, Florence Levey and, of course, Nellie Farren
nellie Farren "tripped on as Ruy Blas, a youthful gallant in black and steel, and was received with a perfect tempest of applause...there was another roar of delight at the saucy smile and comic intonation."
This play ran until October 2nd.
The Brough-Bouchcault Comedy Company produced the romantic drama 'Devotion', by Dion Boucicault, on Saturday September 5th.
"The effect produced by the play is that of clever artifice, and the heart is rarely touched. This is partly, though not entirely, due to the nature of the representation, and to the fact that the new piece is difficult to play."
This played one week only. On the 12th there was the first production in Sydney of 'Peril'. This was an adaptation from M. Victoria Sardou's 'Nos Intimes' by Saville Rowe and Mr. Bolton Rowe. [Editor's note: Bolton Rowe was the pseudonym used by playwright Benjamin Charles Stephenson, or B. C. Stephenson, 1838 – 1906]
"Mr. Boucicault was quite in his best vein as Sir Woodbine Grafton, who is represented as a very aged, loquacious, slightly palsied, little man of quite surprising irritability."
On the 19th 'Led Astray', by Dion Boucicault, was mounted.
"A feature of the evening was the reappearance of Miss Louise Davenport, after a lengthened absence from the stage. Unfortunately, she had but little opportunity for the display of histrionic talent, though she did all that was possible with the small part entrusted to her care."
The play proved reasonably successful and ran until October 6th.
Her Majesty's Theatre
The Lights o' London' finished on Thursday September 17th. The George Rignold revival drew to a close and the company headed down to Melbourne.
On Saturday the 19th saw the first appearance in Sydney of Laura Villiers and new dramatic company. They opened with 'A Celebrated Case', by A. R. Cazauran (1820-1889). (Editor's note: an adaptation of a French play by Adolphe D'Ennery and Eugene Cormon)
"Miss Laura Villiers appeared first as Madeline, and the death-struggle with Lazare was so well managed that it became evident that the new actress had had considerable stage experience."
The play ran the rest of the month.
Her Majesty's Theatre
The Laura Villiers Company opened Jerome K. Jerome's comedy drama 'Woodbarrow Farm' on October 3rd.
"The actors of Miss Villiers' company proved more at their ease in the rustic characters of the new piece...Mr. Julius Knight played the part of Allan Rollitt, of which he gave a thoroughly sound reading on the lines obviously intended by the author."
The work played until the 16th. On the 17th 'The Dancing Girl', by Henry Arthur Jones, was mounted.
The Herald reviewer said that the play "is not suited to the company...Miss Laura Villiers never touches her audience as Drusilla Ives, and Mr. A. Clifton Alderson is too heavy and wanting in finesse to make impressive the character of Lord Guisberry."
Bad reviews but the play stayed on stage until the end of the season on Wednesday November 11th.
On Monday October 5th there was the long awaited production of 'Cinder Ellen Up Too Late', by A.C. Torr and W. T. Vincent.
"A little too late was the reflection made by some of last night's audience after the 'ponderous mace of Time', as typified by the Post Office clock, had charged 11; but the great majority of those present were still clamorous for encores, and the popular verdict was distinctly in favour."
The last night was on Friday October 23rd. On Saturday 24th there were the first of four farewell performances by Ellen Farren and Fred Leslie and the London Gaiety Company. The production was 'Ruy Blas or the Blase Roue'. The company (minus Fred Leslie) then returned to England.
George Darrell's 'The Sunny South' opened on Saturday October 10th.
This played before "a somewhat apathetic audience, though the piece itself was certainly well cast and may be accepted on its merits as a fair type of sensational melodrama."
This ran for one week. Returning after an absence of six years was 'Transported for Life' on the 17th.
"Mr. Darrell...puts much dash and go into the part, and carries the action of the play vigorously enough along with him." /span>
The end of the Darrell season was on the 23rd.
Opening on Saturday 24th was a short season by George Leitch (1842-1907) and a specially organised company which included Charles Holloway, Frank Cates and Nellie Lyons who had recently appeared with the Cartwright-Nethersole company. Opening the season was advertised as another Sydney first. This was 'The Librarian' which was a free adaptation of Gustav von Moser's 'Der Bibliothekar'.
"The theatre was comfortably filled, and the piece appeared to thoroughly please its patrons."/span>
[Editor's note: 'The Librarian' was probably 'The Private Secretary', by William Gillette, which had, of course, been seen in Sydney at regular intervals.]
The Brough-Bouchcault Comedy Company continued their successful season. On Wednesday October 7th there was the first production in Australia of the comedy 'Sunlight and Shadow' by Richard Carton.
"More sunlight than shadow should fall upon the Criterion Theatre during the coming weeks after the successful production of Mr. R.C. Carton's comedy last night."
The last night was on the 16th. On the 17th there was a Thomas Robertson revival season. First was his comedy 'Ours'. (Editor's note: The original production of this was at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London, in September 1866)
"The state of the house on Saturday night showed that the patrons of our local home of high-class comedy are always to be relied on to do justice to a well-cast and well-acted play."
Maybe, but the work only played a week. On the 24th the company mounted Robinson's 'Society'.
"The finish of the acting, the many fresh faces seen in the company, the perfection of the staging, and the pretty sentiment of the story, should ensure the success of 'Society'."
The work played for two weeks.
T.W. Robinson's 'School' was mounted on the 7th.
"Strongly acted as ever by the Brough-Boucicault Comedy Company."
This played for two weeks. On the 21st there was a production of Pinero's 'The Schoolmistress' with Maggie Moore added to the company.
"The house was crowed, the audience in high good humour, and the representation brisk and spirited."
The last night was November 27th. On the 28th 'The Pickpocket', by George Procter Hawtrey, played for a week.
"So cleverly contrived are the situations, so admirable the acting, that the farcical comedy went as merrily as ever on Saturday."
The end of the Brough-Boucicault season was on December 4th.
On Saturday October 31st there was a return to Sydney of Alfred, Lily and Rose Dampier after a three and a half year absense. They opened with the first Sydney production of 'Robbery Under Arms'. This was an original dramatisation of the Rolf Boldrewood's novel.
"The only character of any dramatic importance is that of Starlight himself, played with manly vigour and dignity by Mr. Dampier, who is particularly well suited with his new part."
The last night of the Dampiers was on Friday November 13th.
On Saturday 14th for the first time in Sydney there was a production of 'The Corsair', by Edward Rice and John Braham. This was mounted by the Opera Bouffe Company which featured Fannie Liddiard, George Walton, Virginia Earl, Agnes Paul and George Fortescue.
"The weakness of the extravaganza chiefly lies in the burden it places upon the soloists of the company, whose vocal strength is occasionally overtaxed by the nature of the music that falls to their lot."
'The Corsair' finished on the 27th. The company next mounted Edward Rice's 'Evangeline' on the 28th.
"The vocal strength of the company is not overtaxed, the comedians have fresher types of character to work upon, and there are even one or two features which are peculiar to the piece itself, and cannot be seen apart from it."
The company closed abruptly on Friday December 11th. The theatre went dark for a fortnight.
The George Leitch company performed a revival of the comedy 'Coming Home, or Scissors to Grind' on October 31st. This was written by Leitch himself.
The play "embodies a large amount of pathos, relieved occasionally by humour, and the audience on Saturday followed a not over strongly-defined plot with attentive interest."
The short season finished on the 6th.
On Saturday November 7th Jennie Lee arrived in town for a season. Her last appearance had been in 'Aladdin' in February 1890. She opened with 'Run Wild' a comedy-drama by Miss E. Coffin.
"The flavour of the new piece is not strong, but it is sweet and clean, and such is the bewitching roguishness and tender feeling of Miss Lee in the chief character, such the pathos of Mr. G.P. Carey in a part which most people will agree is the bets he has ever played, that when the curtain falls, it leaves behind it a contented and well-pleased audience."
"Run Wild' ran wild for two weeks. On the 21st the company staged 'The Little Widow', by F. Jarman, for the first time in Australia.
"The house was well filled, and both the audience and the players seemed to be in good humour with themselves and each other, so that all the conditions of success were fairly assured."
On the 28th the ever popular 'Jo' was staged. This was adapted by Jennie's husband, J.P. Burnett, from Charles Dickens' 'Bleak House'. (Editor's note: 'Jo' was first performed at London's Globe Theatre in 1876)
"Miss Lee's 'Jo' is as fresh and vivid today as it was 16 years ago - for the highest artistic work bears repetition without loss."
'Jo' finished on December 4th.
Her Majesty's Theatre
There was a return of the George Rignold company on the 14th with the military drama 'Youth', by Augustus Harris, Paul Merritt and Henry Pettitt.
"The spectacular scenes went off excellently - the prison scene, the embarkation of troops and the night attack - though the performance lasted late on Saturday night."
'Youth' ran into December.
Her Majesty's Theatre
'Youth' finished on Friday 11th December. 'Confusion', by Joseph Derrick, was mounted by the George Rignold Company on the 12th. [Editor's note: This work had opened in London in 1883 and played for 450 performances. The first production in Australia was in Melbourne in December 1884]
"The convincing earnestness of Mr. Rignold's Mortimer Mumpleford is the source of its humour, for the actor's serious treatment of a comic subject gives added zest to the fun"
The last night was on Saturday 19th. The theatre was then closed allowing rehearsals for this years pantomime 'The Babes in the Wood' which opened on the 24th. This had been written especially for the theatre by Frank Ayrton. The cast included Bella Bashall making her first appearance in Sydney.
"The entry of Miss Maggie Moore as Robin Hood, in a forester's costume in autumn tints of dead-leaf green and russet brown, was received with a roar of applause. The wicket Sir Rupert de Guile (Mr. G.P. Carey) was also much in evidence, grotesquely dressed in black and yellow."
The Jennie Lee season drew to a close with a few performances of 'The Grasshoper' by Meihac and Halevy.
On Saturday December 12th the Cogill Brothers Comedy Burlesque Company opened to good reviews. Throughout the season the programme of variety and comedy would change every few days. During the holiday season this type of entertainment was always very popular. The season continued well into January.
The theatre reopened its doors on December 26th with the pantomime 'Harlequin and the Forty Thieves'. Two new artists made their first appearance with this production, Fred Mason and Rose Dearing.
The pantomime has been mounted with "such exceptional splendour that the ballet in the fairy wood in the first act, the evolutions of the dazzling forty in the second, and the procession of sumptuously attired wedding guests in the last, will long be remembered here as the great features of one of the most picturesque pantomimes that has been staged in Sydney."
On December 5th there was the first appearance in Sydney of the Williamson Juvenile Comic Opera Company presenting a season of mainly Gilbert and Sullivan. All the productions were under the watchful eye of Tom Pollard.
Opening with 'The Mikado' the reviewer said "The children have been well-drilled and that every gesture, every little piece of 'business' which belongs to the various characters, has been acquired with facility by the clever little actors."
On Saturday 19th 'The Pirates of Penzance' played.
"The girl pirates in their little pea-jackets, were especially trim and graceful, and Major-General Stanley's many daughters were correctly dressed in the draperies of well-contrasted colour proper to the piece."
On the 26th the Juveniles presented Aidran's operetta 'La Mascotte'.
"The opera had evidently been carefully rehearsed, and went almost as smoothly as if it had occupied the boards for a week."
|Tom Pollard (1857-1922) was Tasmanian by birth but spent much of his life in New Zealand. Pollard's Liliputian Opera Company began its first New Zealand tour in 1881 opening with H.M.S. Pinafore. The unique thing about the Pollard Company was that it began with a group of boys and girls - from ages ten to thirteen - and that they kept together. As the children grew up the Company changed from being called the Liliputian Opera Company to the more adult Pollard's Opera Company. For 22 years the Pollards entertained the country with 42 different productions. Pollard became involved in the movie business. During the Great War he acted as film-advisor to the Government.|