The 1841-1842 Season

By Franklin Case and Mary Case

No change in ownership or management occurred before the 1841-42 season. Frederick H. Yates and Thomas Gladstane continued as proprietors, and Yates remained as manager.

A new spectacular effect was made possible by the installation of a tank of water--8,000 or 10,000 cubic feet of it depending upon which bill one believes--making scenes involving rivers and lakes possible. The first piece to employ the new facility was Die Hexen Am Rhein; or, Rudolph of Hapsburgh, which contained a scene where the Udata-Mene-Leephtheian was exhibited. The bills quoted the press liberally:

the whole of the Stage is made to recede, and an apparently boundless expanse of Real Water is exhibited. The effect is admirable. The Real Water, for it is really 'Real' water surpasses the exhibitions in by-gone days at Sadler's Wells, and exceeds even the exhibitions of real water at Old Drury-lane in the days of the late Mr. Bannister. The effect is a triumph of Scenic Illusion, and is worthy of public patronage. The moonlight effect is admirable, and the Scene in which Wilhelm, in his escape from the Castle, plunges into the water, is, as far as scenic effect can go, perfect. The Audience were delighted beyond measure; the drop scene fell amidst the most vociferous applause.

Another play, The Queen of Cyprus, dealt with exotic lands and thwarted romance, but naturally included a final scene in which the "real water" played a significant role. The Theatrical Observer, while agreeing the piece was largely spectacle, felt the plot had some interesting features.

Catarina (Mrs. Yates) is on the eve of wedding Gerard de Courcy (Lyon) when an edict is issued by the mysterious Council of Ten (the scene being laid in Venice in the Fourteenth Century), prohibiting the nuptials and decreeing Catarina's marriage with the King of Cyprus--her refusal being instant death to her lover. She consents to wed the King but, previous to the celebration, the life of de Courcy is attempted by hired bravoes of the State from whom he is rescued by an unknown cavalier. On the return of the King with his bride from the nuptial ceremony, de Courcy is about to stab his rival when, recognising him as the saviour of his life, he withholds his vengeance and is borne away a prisoner. Four years now elapse, and the Queen of Cyprus is about to become a widow, the King being poisoned by Moncenigo (Maynard), one of the Council of Ten, for not proving a tool in their tyrannous decrees. De Courcy, who has been banished, returns a religious Knight of Malta in time to denounce Moncenigo to the King, whose dying breath consigns him to death and the town of Cyprus to destruction by the Venetian Fleet.

The music came in for mixed praise from the same reviwer who felt its chief characteristic was noise. However, Mrs. Graddon received unqualified praise. She "never appeared to greater advantage. Her rich mellow voice and naive yet subdued acting, were charming proofs of that excellence which we predicted on her first appearance here" (Theatrical Observer, February 1, 1842).

The last scene of the piece involved the rescue of the young prince from drowning. A horse, borrowed from Batty's Circus, which was currently performing "The Eglintown Tournament," plunged into the water to rescue the prince. It was suggested O. Smith had relinquished the role of Moncenigo to Maynard "in consequence of his having evinced symptoms of hydrophobia, i. e. refusing to take the watery leap in the last scene of the spectacle." The reviewer assured his readers this was not the case. O. Smith "is a member of the Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the leaping animal in The Queen of Cyprus refusing to perform the required feat, very cleverly, a stick was applied to its back. This roused the nervous feelings of the 'member' and a remonstrance with the gentleman who applied the stick ensued" (Theatrical Observer, 12 February 1842).

A new Dickens novel, Barnaby Rudge, provided material for a spate of stage plays; The Adelphi had a history of such adaptations but was slow off the mark. Dramatizations appeared at the English Opera House and The Strand some months before The Adelphi's version was played. Stirling is named by Nicoll as the author. The playbill contains a list of "realizations" with scene by scene references to pages in the book. The Theatrical Observer said, "We cannot resist again bestowing our meed of praise upon O. Smith's artistic assumption of Black Hugh of 'The Maypole', whose dogged brutality and savage bearing he cleverly mingles with his ignorance--which is the only palliative for his wrongdoing" (15 January 1842).

A popular piece, performed late in the season, was The Breach of Promise of Marriage, by Julia Pardoe. The Theatrical Observer was loud in its praise. "For cleverness of construction, neatness of dialogue, and a happy mixture of mystery and complexity with clearness and precision, [it] has never been equalled at this theatre. It has been adapted ... yet the action has been altered--we think, improved" (22 February 1842).

Acis and Galatea was being played at Drury Lane, and Oxberry wrote a burlesque version for The Adelphi which, while it called upon the resources of the entire company, lasted only six performances.

The theatre closed at the end of its regular season, 19 March with A farewell address by Yates promising "fresh new novelties"--a promise he would not be able to keep.

C. H. Adams gave a series of postseasonal lectures on astronomy using an orrery to illustrate his points. These talks were not always attended with awed respect. The Theatrical Observer complained, "We cannot avoid animadverting the foolish and disgraceful conduct of certain parties who attend them for the purpose of annoying the lecturer" (24 March 1842).

The post-season ended with a magician, Young, who resembled the famous Wizard of the North. Young, however, had additional entertainments in the form of dancing and a juvenile ballet by the pupils of Frampton.

During the recess, Frederick Yates died. The Theatrical Observer summed his career up as follows:

In tragedy, comedy, farce, and melodrama, he was occasionally capital and always respectable. In burlesque, he was excellent, though perhaps a little too prone to exaggeration. He was a better buck than fop, and a better rake than either; indeed, his performances of the latter character only wanted refinement to render it unexceptional. His extraordinary talent as a manager has been universally acknowledged, and his loss will be severely felt by the playgoers of the metropolis. The command he possessed over the audience has been frequently exemplified--by one word addressed in his peculiar way, he quieted the most uproarious gallery.

Frederick Yates was only forty-five years old when he died.

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

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