The 1809-1810 Season

By John Brokaw and Frank McHugh

The Sans Pareil opened 11 December. It was a larger theatre than before because of the "new and commodious gallery" (Morning Post), which had been built after the summer season. Tickets were one shilling for the gallery and, as in the past, two shillings for the pit and four for the boxes.

The company was changed substantially from that of 1808. Its strength was in singing and pantomime. Three singers stand out: William Broadhurst, John Isaacs and James F. Pyne; all later achieved some success at Covent Garden and the English Opera. Broadhurst, the younger Charles Dibdin thought, had a "perhaps unparalleled sweetness of voice, in a Man" (Memoirs, p. 97). Isaacs, a bass, sang in the 1826 world premiere of Weber's Oberon at Covent Garden (White, A History of English Opera, p. 256). In his three years at the Sans Pareil, according to the Biography of the British Stage, he became a "deserved favorite." James Pyne apparently relied on his voice alone to make his way in the theatre. The Biography of the British Stage asserted, "this pleasing vocalist ... has no ability as an actor." However, this was not cause for dismay, since Pyne was engaged "to sing and not to act." (At Jane Scott's benefit in March, Pyne and proprietor John Scott, "his first appearance on any stage," played the title roles in The Two Misers of Smyrna. Good fun rather than exquisite acting must have been the aim of this entertainment.)

Miss Scott's pantomime, The Necromancer; or, The Golden Key, was a great success, running the whole season. It was probably a somewhat different piece from week to week, with improvisations and interludes not announced on the bills. In fact, management's failure to say exactly what would or would not be presented on a given evening led to some disappointment and unruliness in the audience. The Necromancer was disrupted on 11 January and again on 12 January. These ructions resulted in a declaration of policy on the bill by management: "Whatever is named shall be produced but nothing but what is inserted in the bills and advertisements of the day shall be brought forward" (22 January). Auld was Harlequin this year, his first of three successive seasons at the theatre. Lardner returned as Pantaloon and James Kirby as Clown. Mrs. Elizabeth Pincott was Columbine most of the run. In her absence Miss Ruggles began to establish herself in the role; she made a favorable impression on the Persian Ambassador, at whose command she took a benefit on 3 April when she danced Columbine.

At least two pieces by the prolific Jane Scott played every evening this year. Three works from prior seasons, The Red Robber, The Bashaw and The Magistrate, and a new piece, Mary, The Maid of the Inn, rotated throughout the season. Mary was a Gothic verse melodrama derived from Southey's poem. Miss Scott complicated Southey's plot, and her surprise revelations at the denouement softened his stark vision. This quite successful melodrama was revived in the 1811 and 1816 seasons.

John P. "Jack" Bologna and a "Miss" H. Bologna (who might be either, his niece, the daughter of Louis Bologna, or the Harriet Bath Barnwell whom Jack married in 1800) joined the company this season. Harriet was a principal dancer in the year's only two ballets and took minor roles in two other pieces. Bologna brought the shadow show back to the Sans Pareil for the first time since the 1806 season, when John Scott operated his own machinery. Bologna had been presenting such shows for several years, when he was not engaged as Harlequin. His Lilliput Island opened January 11 and played at intervals some thirty-four times. It was described on the bills as "an interlude in five scenes." In addition to these shadow shows, Bologna presented another of his lenten productions, "Bologna's Mechanical Exhibitions."

Several performers associated with the Sans Pareil for many years made their first appearance this season, most of them in minor roles: Godbee, Robert Stebbing, Swan, Mrs. Daly and Miss LeBrun. John Scott again managed the theatre and James Sanderson returned as composer and band leader.

© Copyright 1988 by Alfred L. Nelson and Gilbert B. Cross

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