The 1824-1825 Season

By Alfred Nelson and Gilbert Cross

Extensive alterations to the interior of the house took place during the recess. A passage through the boxes was constructed; other changes were described in the Drama:

A dress circle has been formed, and the whole has been entirely redecorated in rather a novel and tasteful manner. The gilt ornaments to the front of the boxes are laid on a ground composed of rose-colour and white stripes giving it a pleasing appearance of lightness and elegance. The private boxes are lined with rich crimson flock paper with silk draperies to correspond. The proscenium gives the appearance of a variegated fan, most richly embossed with burnished gold and the scenery is equally superb. The orchestra has been enlarged sufficiently to contain a band of upwards of forty performers (October 1824, p. 53).

The opening was delayed to allow for "immense preparations" for Valmondi; or, The Unholy Sepulchre, a Gothic musical melodrama replete with ghosts, demons and other supernatural elements. The management spent lavishly for scenery, costumes, decorations and machinery for this piece, billed as a romantic burletta spectacle. A new drop scene was created by Wilson. The Adelphi chorus was augmented by "gentlemen of the Italian Opera House" thus forming "perhaps the most numerous and effective chorus ever heard on the English stage" as the bill proudly put it. Alexander E. Gomersal played Kelmar, a man gifted with immortality, wandering over the earth in search of death, while Power played the title role, a ruined man forced to become a poacher. The highlight of the piece was the procession of the auto da fe in Act III. In format the piece resembles an oratorio--an unholy oratorio, but one, it was claimed, that conveyed a moral lesson. The Drama commented:

This piece takes its origin from the same source as Der Freischutz, and from the success which has attended the representation of that opera, we fear that the town will be inundated for some time with German horrors in all shapes. The scenery of the piece is magnificent and costly, and the music is very fine, particularly the invocation ... the performance must be curtailed, and we would suggest that much of the singing might be left out with advantage, particularly the serenade, which was very ridiculous. It was not over till a quarter to twelve, too late by nearly two hours ... Mr. Power should infuse a little more energy into his portraiture of the villain Valmondi (October 1824, p. 55).

Valmondi achieved only moderate success and was withdrawn 2 December in favor of The Life of an Actor. This piece by Richard B. Peake was based upon Pierce Egan's work. Like Valmondi, it embraced the whole strength of the Company. It ran as the main piece (70 times) until the end of the regular season.

New players this season were Miss Boden, and Miss Parrock. Villiers and Paulo returned, the latter to act as Clown in the pantomime and as a comic character in Valmondi. Thus, counting the pantomime, there were only three pieces that could be considered as "main pieces." A farce, More Blunders Than One, was reasonably successful and, for once, Power was praised. The central character is an Irishman with the unlikely name Larry Hoolagan who was

performed by Mr. Power with a great deal of humour ... it was generally supposed that the author had him and him alone in his eye when he was engaged in the composition. The piece has a great deal of broad humour in it, and there is also the recommendation of agreeable incident which, united to smartness of dialogue, places it much above the general run of minor theatre composition (Theatrical Observer, 15 December).

The same journal was also pleased with the Christmas pantomime, which was founded upon the

powers of Mother Red Cap, a personage whose name has, we believe, often excited terror in the minds of the younger sort of creation ... [carries out] feats furnished with bad rhymes and a substantial cane ... Two lovers, Harlequin and Columbine, are the objects of her malignity ... in all her machinations our friend Mother Red Cap is defeated by the intervention of the Fairies of the Rose ... There was, of course, the usual number of clowns whose sagacity and intellect are according to the prescribed regulation of pantomimes, lodged in their lower extremities (December 15).

Sixteen pieces were played only once, an indication of the management's growing desperation. Monsieur Henry repeated his tour de force of the previous season. The title was Table Talk; or, Shreds and Patches, but in a few weeks, the main title was dropped in favor of the subtitle. The entertainment featured sleight of hand tricks followed by his playing on the musical glasses, where he performed, among other pieces, the "Chorus of Huntsmen" from Der Freischutz and was rapturously encored. Part of the optical illusions consisted of producing images of Edmund Kean and Miss Foote. There was also a "Lecture on Hands" (cf. George Alexander Stevens' "Lecture on Heads"), and, of course, the laughing gas experiments. This show ran on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent and was extended till 31 May for a total of 52 performances. As with the previous year, a post-season benefit was held for the Sons of St. Andrew. The stage manager, Lee, had a benefit on June 1, 1825. Wilkinson's benefit, 28 February, presented a short version of Valmondi, and a masquerade scene in which Wilkinson sang "Trotting Along the Road" while mounted upon a real ass. Among other features of the benefit were an Indian juggler, Ramo Samee, and "the admired combat on horseback" from Quadrupeds by Messrs. Smith and Sanders.

A melancholy event took place on 14 March. After an illness of two months, James T. Rodwell died. It was said that the anxiety and overwork in producing Valmondi had hastened his end. The theatre was closed that evening. This death marked the end of the Rodwell-Jones partnership. The Adelphi would be sold before the start of the next season to Daniel Terry and Frederick H. Yates.

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

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