The 1832-1833 Season

By Alicia Kae Koger

The 1832-33 season at the Adelphi commenced on 1 October under the management of Charles Mathews and Frederick Yates. The production staff remained as it had been in the two previous seasons, with George H. Rodwell as musical director, Mr. Tomkins and Mr. Pitt serving as scenic designers, Mr. Godbee and Miss E. Rayner supervising the costumes, Mr. Foster managing properties, and Mr. Evans overseeing the machinery. As in the past, the management focused on the sensational melodramatic comic burlettas and burlesques to draw its audiences. The Athenaeum's description of the theatre as "a bazaar of fun, horrors, and strong scenic effects" (13 October 1832, pp. 668-669) aptly summarizes this season when twenty-five plays were performed in a total of 182 performances.

The most popular play of the season was Cupid, which appeared on the bill eighty-seven times. Little critical comment on the production appeared in the press, and the playwright's identity is uncertain. The burlesque of the myth of Cupid and Psyche capitalized on the comic talents of John Reeve and Laura Honey and remained a favorite of the company. Following Cupid in popularity was John Buckstone's Henriette the Forsaken. This melodrama ran for 60 performances and received high praise from audiences and critics alike. The Athenaeum labeled it a "decided and well-deserved hit" and noted Frederick Yates' "admirable" acting (10 November 1832, p. 733). The Times said that "the interest throughout is ... exceeding well kept up; and many of the scenes are truly affecting" (6 November 1832). Once again the scenery attracted critical comment as the Times noted that "the scenery is remarkably well painted." The Theatrical Observer reported that "the getting up of the ball-room and suite of apartments in the new drama of Henriette the Forsaken at the Adelphi, we have heard, cost the managers upwards of 100 guineas" (10 October 1832).

The successes of Cupid and Henriette are perhaps not as remarkable as the failures of so many other productions during this season. Reviewers referred repeatedly to the disappointing aspects of productions or pointed out the dissatisfaction of the audiences. The opening show of the season, an adaptation of Rip Van Winkle by William Bernard proved to be "not so successful as some of its predecessors have been on the stage," according to the Athenaeum of 13 October 1832 (pp. 668-669). It ran for only 42 performances. A farce called Mr. Busy began and "terminated amidst unequivocal marks of disapprobation" from the audience, because it was an "exceedingly lame and impotent affair" (Times, 4 December 1832). The Howlet's Haunt, which opened a week later, was "received in solemn silence" (Times, December 1832) by the audience and ran for only 12 performances. The Athenaeum declared that "no particular honour is due to" Twenty Thousand Pounds; or, London Love, calling it "simple even to childishness" (9 Feb 1833, p. 92). Buckstone's Jacopo the Bravo; or, A Story of Venice achieved considerably more success but opened so near the end of the season that it ran for only 26 performances.

The month of March brought Lenten entertainments by Frederick Yates and John Reeve and, although The Era Almanack reported that "the Lenten entertainments of Mr. Yates proved unusually attractive in March" (p. 4), the Theatrical Observer reported on 2 March 1833 that "the materiel and execution [of] the performance is every way inferior to" Mathews' performances of the same genre. Reeve's one-man show apparently opened on a bad note with the performer "not able to complete what he had purposed" (Times, 23 February 1833), but continued to run for 10 more performances. Mathews' own entertainment opened on 29 April 1833 after a week's delay occasioned by a flu epidemic in London. His show, written by Charles J. Mathews and Richard B. Peake, merited the usual praise for the star's performance and some disapproval of the script, but it ran for 30 nights in alternation with the English Opera House's summer season.

As Frederick Yates closed the season after benefit performances for Frederick Yates, John Reeve, and Fanny Fitzwilliam, he thanked the audience for "that patronage which has pleased our hearts, I humbly confess, by filling our pockets" (Times, 1 April 1833). The Athenaeum also reported that "the season has been, we believe, a prosperous one; and the success which the management has again met with has been, we are happy to say, again well deserved" (13 April 1833, p. 236). Thus we may conclude that the lack of a blockbuster hit like The Wreck Ashore or Victorine did not ultimately hurt the managers' profits.

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

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