The 1827-1828 Season

By Alfrida Lee

The season opened on 1 October 1827, again under the management of Terry and Yates. During the summer, improvements had been made to the interior of the theatre, most of them apparently to accommodate larger audiences. It had been "entirely re-decorated"; the dress-circle had been enlarged; there were two new orchestra boxes and the proscenium had been extended in height and breadth. The Times, describing the Adelphi Theatre as "unquestionably the first of the winter minors," reviewed the opening night performances. Terry, Yates, Reeve and T. P. Cooke "evinced their accustomed excellence. These four gentlemen, in their several departments, would be sufficient to uphold the character of any theatre; but there are some additions to the corps dramatique, which, though inferior to any of those mentioned, are likely to prove very useful acquisitions. Amongst these, we may notice John Baldwin Buckstone, who appeared as Bobby Trot."

Buckstone was, of course, the author of Luke the Labourer though he was not identified as such in the previous season. When he joined the Adelphi company, he was invited to take a share in the production. He remained with the Adelphi Theatre for some years as both actor and dramatist even after being engaged for the summer months at the Haymarket, where he later became manager.

The ballet performed on the opening night did not please the critic of the Times. The stage was too small and the performers too crowded together for the production to give pleasure to the audience. It ran for only a fortnight. As a whole, however, the opening night was a success. "The house was full throughout the evening."

Several new pieces were brought out in October. On 9 October, A Libertine's Lesson was reviewed. The critic found the play to be lacking in interest. "Rakes have so often been reformed upon the stage," he commented, "that there is little attraction in witnessing their reformation; and the blows which they make at our moral feelings are generally made with such deliberate preparation that they are easily parried without difficutly and seldom prove hits. The rake of last night was as insupportable as people of his class generally are, and would not have been tolerated in any society but that of a minor theatre." However, he found the casting excellent and the actors deserving of every commendation. Mrs. Yates, in her first appearance at the Adelphi Theatre, was loudly applauded and "looked as amiable as the virtue she was meant to represent, and would have made her part effective, had it been within the limits of possibility." Apparently the piece was well received, but the critic felt "it could never prove a favorite. The sooner it is withdrawn, the better it will be for the theatre." It did not have a long run. It was given for only a fortnight in October and nine nights in December.

The banality of this piece was the cause of the critic's disapproval of it. By contrast, he had nothing but praise for a moral play produced in the same month, Thirty Years; or, A Gambler's Life. "A new and serious burletta ... was produced at this theatre last night, and met with a reception almost unprecedented, even in the successful productions of the present management." The piece was outstanding for the excellent acting of T. P. Cooke, Yates and Mrs. Pope, "and above all for the moral it inculcates, (a circumstance not always conducive to the success of a new piece). The frightful picture which it draws of a gambler's life is by no means over-charged." From the length of its run it seems to have remained popular. It was given again during the next season.

One production that had a longer run than The Libertine's Lesson but seemed equally inept was Nelson. Both pieces are attributed to Edward Fitzball, though his name does not appear in the sources. The material seemed trivial for a play about a great national hero. One example will suffice. There was the spectacle of "a young pawnbroker promenading the ice-bergs of the Arctic Seas, in a pair of very wide and very short nankeen trousers, with a Jew's daughter from Wapping, who follows a sailor in disguise, and a runaway grocer for his companions. This precious trio, after a skirmish with the Esquimaux, are on the point of being devoured by a Greenland bear when the animal is shot by the boy Nelson, who had given it chase." The scenery was well done, but the production suffered from a mishap not unusual on the first nights in performances where elaborate contrivances are essential. The machinery not working adequately spoiled some of the intended dramatic effects. T. P. Cooke, under whose direction Nelson had been produced, "in giving this piece out for repetition, promised it would be in better sailing trim tomorrow." Despite T. P. Cooke's illness at the end of November, which necessitated cast changes, the piece had an uninterrupted run until 19 January 1828, and was given for two more weeks in February.

By Christmas six entirely new pieces and nine others had been given. The pantomime, Harlequin and the White Mouse, was successful. As at the begining of the season, the Times drew attention to the smallness of the stage, but this time with credit to the production. "The usual pantomime evolutions, and the bustle so necessary in that kind of entertainment were exceedingly well managed, considering the limited extent of the stage." The scenery was commended. One piece of stage business caused some surprise "occasioned by the Clown throwing what appeared to be a little boy into the pit--it was, of course, a stuffed figure." This seems to have been a variation on Paulo's trick in the previous season's pantomime when he himself unexpectedly appeared in the pit.

New pieces were given into the last month of the season. On 3 March, the critic of the Times again mentioned the performers to whose excellence he had referred at the beginning of the season. Presumptive Evidence, which he thought would "be a favourite," gave scope for the talent of Yates and T. P. Cooke, and the performance of Mrs. Yates was praised. In January in Paris and London, for which Tomkins had painted a moving panorama depicting a journey from Calais to Dover, John Reeve "exerted his comic powers with great success, keeping the house in a continued roar of laughter" (Era Almanack 1877 and the Times).

This successful season ended in April. After Henry's entertainment, finishing at the end of Holy Week, only one other performance was given, an entertainment by Yates, Faces Under a Hood, on 14 April. There is nothing to indicate whether more performances of this had been intended, or whether the breaking up of the partnership between Yates and Terry accounted for the early closing of the theatre for the summer. Terry was in financial difficulties which caused some embarrassment to Yates as his name and that of the Adelphi had been linked in the press with Terry's in this matter. Yates' denial of this in the Times, 24 April 1828, was printed as follows:

The paragraph in your paper of to-day, as extracted from a publication called The World contains an allusion to myself and the Adelphi property which it is highly necessary I should immediately contradict. The Adelphi Theatre is not in involvements; it has more than answered the expectations formed on it. Mr. Terry's embarrassments are totally unconnected with myself or this property and I am suffering a considerable pecuniary loss from his conduct. Every part, therefore, of this paragraph, is a direct falsehood, as far as regards the Adelphi property and myself.

Thus the season and the partnership between Terry and Yates were at an end, and Yates was left to review his position as manager for the next season alone or to seek another partner.

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

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