The 1825-1826 Season

By Alfrida Lee

The season opened under the new management of Daniel Terry and Frederick H. Yates. The sum paid by them for the Adelphi Theatre was given as 25,000 pounds by the Era Almanack, 1877, but the Theatrical Times, 1847, mentions that the terms have been "variously stated at 21,000 pounds, 25,000 pounds and 30,000 pounds." The lowest figure seems unlikely as Jones and Rodwell had paid 25,000 pounds in 1819. The interior of the theatre had been refurbished. This description appeared in the Times 11 October: "The house has been newly embellished, not without some taste, and apparently at considerable expense: fresh linings and gildings having been afforded to the boxes, lamps and chandeliers to the stage, and a looking-glass of large dimension, besides crimson cushions in abundance, to the refreshment room."

There were some valuable additions to the company. Both managers were well-known performers. Terry, a friend of Sir Walter Scott and adapter of some of his novels for the stage, had appeared at Drury Lane, Covent Garden and the Haymarket. Yates had appeared at Covent Garden and had considerable experience in Edinburgh and and some provincial towns. In addition to acting, he had established a reputation as an entertainer in one-man performances, chiefly imitations, in the style of Charles Mathews. T. P. Cooke came from Covent Garden, Mrs. Fitzwilliam from Drury Lane, and Gouriet from Covent Garden.

The management proposed "to place its entertainments on a higher footing than they have hitherto occupied." Evidently a good beginning was made as the Times said of the performances, "Upon the whole they were decidedly of a higher order than any which had before been presented at the theatre; and were received with general satisfaction by the audience crowded in all parts." The great success of the season was The Pilot, being played to crowded houses and having a run of more than one hundred nights. The author, Edward Fitzball, wrote, "It was asserted, and I have no doubt of its truth, that the managers cleared upwards of 7,000 pounds by the production ... and I must admit that much of this was due to their own exertions and talents" (Thirty-five Years of a Dramatist's Life, I, 162). There is further comment on the improved quality of the performances on 3 November: "Taken altogether, the entertainments at this theatre are extremely well-arranged and amusing, and incomparably above the standard of minor-house performances in general." By the end of December, however, the Times had few compliments for the pantomime, The Three Golden Lamps; or, Harlequin and the Wizard Dwarf, which did not give the impression of the long preparation claimed for it on the bills. The scene-shifting especially seemed clumsy and time-consuming. A trio was considered to be indecent. One scene was deleted after the first week. Christmas Boxes was "a clever production" though it "trenches a little too much on the indelicate and improper."

On the whole, melodrama and humour seemed to be the keynotes of the season's productions. The Anaconda, which was favorably received, included both. Anticlimax was achieved by the appearance of the snake of very moderate size.

One other production worthy of comment was Success; it appears to be the first attempt in England to introduce a "Revue." a genre already popular in Paris (James R. Planche, Recollections, 1872).

From the Times it appears that the performers acquitted themselves well, especially T. P. Cooke and John Reeve in The Pilot and The Anaconda. The critic expressed surprise that they had not been engaged at one of "the two great theatres."

Artistic effects were achieved with the scenery for new pieces, and there was great ingenuity shown in the machinery.

A numerous audience was reported for major productions. The Anaconda must have had family appeal as the children (and the gallery) loudly applauded the serpent (Times, 24 January 1826). The audience was not always appreciative. On December 26 1825, the police had to be called in to deal with a disturbance in the gallery which rendered two of the pieces inaudible.

M. Henry again gave the Lenten Entertainment continuing into Passion Week. This was in the same style as previous seasons with some variation in content.

After the season, Yates's Reminiscences drew a crowded audience on the first night, but there was a disturbance in the gallery. "Vollies of shot ... were poured into the pit." Yates acted promptly and "sent an officer into the gallery to seize the offenders."

From April to June there were 30 performances of Yates's Reminiscences, for which there was mostly favorable criticism in the Times, though some of the entertainment was considered indifferent. The second part of Yates' program was Mr. Chairman, a dramatic monologue which Fitzball claimed to have written, though he gave the date as 1829 (Thirty-five Years of a Dramatist's Life, I, 193).

The theatre opened again on 26 June 1826, for a benefit for the Royalty Theatre, which had been destroyed by fire. On 10 July the theatre was taken by Mrs. Cruse for one night, after which the theatre was dark until the next season.

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

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