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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

The London Shows

The London Shows.

Let me take your readers in the hansom of the imagination for a scamper round the London plays. We will arrange them in one big variety programme, giving each its turn. It takes me a Friday evening and a Saturday afternoon to surround the lot, as the Irish policeman says when he advances upon the mob.

To begin with, we skip out of our trap at the Criterion, and enter a theatre where prosperity reigns. "The Candidate" is just getting under way, and the audience already simmers with hilarity. Charles Wyndham is on the stage, the perfection of touch and go. The humour of the scene is much enhanced by the opposite style of the cool and impasto Mr. Giddens. Surely I saw him in Melbourne, some years ago, in "Fidelia, the Fire Waif"

Yes, and stepping out again, at the Vaudeville, I see another Melbourne man, Mr. Mackintosh, a native of Melbourne, though he never acted in your city. He sustains the part of Deacon Hoggard, in "Saints and Sinners," and a characteristic portrait it is, like all that Mr. Mackintosh does. Thorne sends word that he wishes to speak to me for a moment, and thereupon I trip through the side door from the dress circle to the stage, where I have a little chat with Mackintosh, who expresses his desire to see Melbourne again, but apparently his London engagements will preclude him.

Now we hie to the Strand, and glance at David James, as Middlewick, the butterman, in "Our Boys." They say Irving is so weary of "The Bells," that he is determined to relinquish it, and Macready used to stipulate in his engagements that he should not be called upon to play "Rob Roy." "Any news from Australia about Fred Marshall?" inquires James, remembering the clever comedian who replaced him at one time in "Our Boys," for a few nights.

But we must hurry away to see the principal scene of "The Ironmaster," at the St. James' Theatre. Of course we have read Mrs. Kendal's dramatic and didactic lecture on the Drama. Very page 56 nice indeed, but this powerful scene in "The Ironmaster" is not overnice, with the bride repelling her husband. And didn't I see Mrs. Kendal in "Impulse?"

Our jaunt, however, is to the tune of "Do not Linger." Just drop in and see the original "Ironmaster," 'Le Maitre de Forges," in the French Plays, at the Royalty. Jane Hading, and Jacques Damala, Bernhardt's husband, have come over from the Paris Gymnase, with the impersonations which they gave there for 300 nights on end. Mdlle. Hading is very good.

Off we go to the Olympic, where "Called Back" has been transplanted from the Prince's. Another old Melbourne friend, Kyrle Bellew—and another, Alice Dunning Lingard. Beerbohm Tree's Macari is a perfect piece of acting.

Next, to the Olympic, where Righton keeps the people laughing in "The Twins," by the author of "Confusion." From this our driver gets the direction of the Hay market. We arrive there at the nick of time to see the finale of the great scene of "the three men," in "Diplomacy." Forbes Robertson's acting as Julian Beauclerc is eccentric and extravagant, but is much applauded. I think it answers for a performer to flout the critics. Bancroft's Henry Beauclerc is diplomatic to the core, and Barrymore, from the States, is thoroughly excellent as Count Orloff. I cannot find a stall to recline in, but stand during the entr'acte music just to see a little of Mrs. Bernard Beere's very capable Countess Zicka, and Brookfield's fine study of Baron Stein.

Away now to the Adelphi, where Chas. Warner is caught as Ned Dray ton, "In the Ranks," going through the scene of the capture for the 389th time. From this, for an entire change, we rush to the Promenade Concert, at the vast Her Majesty's Theatre, where Foli, in full operatic costume, is giving a scena as Mephistopheles, in "Faust." The great brass band of the Guards' Regiment then plays in splendid fashion, but there is not a magnificent attendance in the auditorium.

That will do for the evening, and we bring down our act drop with the picture of Thespis loading up his cart for the Victorian goldfields. Our programme for the Saturday afternoon matinee shows how this form of entertainment advances in favour in London, as in New York. Here we have Mary Anderson, Wilson Barrett, and other eminent people doubling their labours on the Saturday. Miss Anderson plays Juliet twice in the day, and Barrett does the same with Hamlet.

But we start with Covent Garden Theatre, occupied by a circus, under the management of William Holland, the "People's Caterer," a gentleman with a Napoleon III. moustache, extra wired. He ushers us into a stage box, from which we view an enormous theatre, thronged with an excited audience of about three thousand. In the midst is the circus arena, laid down in page 57 very thick matting," so that the thuds of the horses' hoofs, and the familiar kicking of the sides of the ring, are not accompanied by any spray of sawdust. Signor Lightnino is just finishing his miraculous act, six horses galloping round the ring, all naked, one after another, and the Signor standing on the last one. "Hi! Hi!" Off he jumps, and bows profusely as the numerous grooms, in Mexican uniforms, catch the horses and lead them out. The band gives a flourish, and then changes its tune as a huge elephant comes trotting into the arena. It is dressed up as a big boy, in a blue jacket, monster frill, and white trousers. The people roar like the ocean.

The scene changes to the aristocratic Lyceum, with Mary Anderson and handsome Terriss in the balcony scene of "Romeo and Juliet"—very luscious, indeed. From this we roll away to the Court, and just see a little of Arthur Cecil's finished acting in the small part of the Old Lawyer, in the comedy of "Young Mrs. Winthrop." Then to the Savoy, for a few minutes' laugh at Grossmith, in the "Sorcerer." Next to the Comedy Theatre, where we witness that strange and repulsive sight of Florence St. John, in the "Great Mogul," toying with two real and not small boa-constrictors, as they twine about her arms in the scene where she impersonates a show-woman at a Fair. Frederick Leslie, who acted and sung "Rip Van Winkle" so cleverly, is the showman.

Now for metal more attractive—Wilson Barrett's "Hamlet," at the Princess'. We have hit the exact right time, just as the ting of the prompter's bell sounds, and the flats draw back for the Closet Scene in "Hamlet." What a superb set is the stage interior, entirely subduing the mind to the purpose of the play. Cooper enters as Polonius, and Miss Leighton as the Queen, quite young looking. Polonius withdraws, and in rushes Hamlet, youthful, impulsive, glowing. The scene enthrals. The crowded house is wrought up by genuine power to the climax where Barrett screams, "A king of shreds and patches!" Lights down. Chord. In bursts the Ghost—another Melbourne acquaintance, substantial Jack Dewhurst.

The inevitable calls for "Barrett! Barrett!" are ringing in our ears, as we drive off to Drury Lane, for the finale. Indeed, we are beginning to feel it a task. Crashing music breaks upon the ear as we enter the circle. The Pageant of the Lord Mayor's Show occupies the stage in the Drury Lane pantomime of "Whittington," upon which Augustus Harris' outlay has been over £30,000. Performances every afternoon and evening! Twelve a week! How the toilers, and especially the children, must relish Sunday! Eight hours of Pantomime every day!

The Lord Mayor's Show quite eclipses the Transformation Scene, which comes not long after it. This used to be the page 58 culmination of the Pantomime, but it is dying away. Will the Drury Lane pantomime expire, too? Possibly Blanchard, who has written about thirty Christmas Pantomimes for Drury Lane, will see it out. No other West End theatre has a pantomime this Christmas.

I forgot a jotting of Terry and Nelly Farren as the Ghost and Prince in "Very Little Hamlet," at the Gaiety. The Empire, Astley's, The Alhambra, The Grand, The Surrey, Standard, Britannia, and the shoal of Music halls, help to divert London's four-and-a-half millions. But I cannot slice myself and my hansom in two, and witness all the gambols of Behemoth, or a fraction of them.