The 1815-1816 Season

By Franklin Case

Under the management of its proprietor, John Scott, The Strand Theatre opened its new season 30 October 1815, with Miss Jane Scott's Asgard The Daemon Hunter, The Conjurer, and The Summer House. The season closed 135 evening performances later on 6 April 1816, with performances of The Old Oak Chest and Stratagems. Of the season's works, six were ballets, seven were burlettas, one a comic pantomime, one a drama, one a divertisement, four were melodramas, one an operatic entertainment, and two were pantomimes.

Based on the number of performances, the most durable and admired of these works were: The Conjurer (a burletta, 49 performances); Love in the Vintage (a ballet, 46 performances); The Witch and the Owl (a pantomime, 44 performances); The Old Oak Chest (a melodrama, 39 performances); Jamie of Aberdeen (a ballet, 24 performances); The Inscription (a ballet, 29 performances); Harlequin Rasselas (a pantomime, 21 performances); Asgard The Daemon Hunter (a melodrama, 18 performances). Apparently, this season's audiences thrived on ballet and pantomime, with melodrama enjoying its usual strong showing.

During this season, Miss Jane Scott's burletta The Conjurer was produced for the first time in England with these words of praise on the bill: "Now performing in Paris and through the provinces with enthusiastic approbation." For the opening of her melodrama Asgard The Daemon Hunter on 30 October, an entirely new architectural front drop scene was introduced, "representing a grand imperial palace" with statues and banners celebrating Roman historical figures. The Two Little Savoyards was performed for the first time since September, 1808, according to Nicoll's History. The bill emphasizes that the performance took place "with the original French music." Harlequin Rasselas, author unknown, was based on Dr. Johnson's tale, and its bill contains a detailed plot summary. The flute selections in Love in the Vintage were performed by Master Snelling (age 4) in his first public appearance. Alphonso was written from the renowned romance of Gonzalve de Cordova.

"Tippitywichet" sung during Strategems was by Charles Dibdin, the younger. While at Sadler's Wells, Dibdin had begun a series of broad songs and extravaganzas which had been sung by the Clown, Joseph Grimaldi. Of these songs, "Tippitywichet" and "Hot Codlings," became standards and suffered the dubious distinction of being appropriated by "piratical publications," as Dibdin put it. The Theatrical Inquisitor had this to say in January:

Miss Scott deserves much praise for her exertions to render this house deservedly attractive. The interior is really fitted up in a respectable manner, and several new pieces of merit have been produced, particularly one called The Inscription, apparently founded on Murphy's Desert Island. The pantomime [The Witch and the Owl] is also remarkedly amusing (p. 77).

The theatre was dark for Martyr's Day, 30 January 1816, and for Ash Wednesday, 28 February 1816.

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

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