The 1891-1892 Season

By Meredith Klaus

The 1891-92 Season opened with George R. Sims and Robert Buchanan's new play, written for the Adelphi, The Trumpet Call. The Times (3 August 1891) described Sims and Buchanan as "masters of melodrama" and hailed the "stirring title" as presaging an equally stirring performance. The reviewer called the play "one of the best" by these authors.

The plot details the fortunes of Cuthbert Cuthbertson, a young man cursed not only in being given the same name twice, but inadvertently marrying two wives. To save his second and currently beloved wife from this shame, he enlists in the army and disappears for six years. On returning, he finds his first wife, a disreputable gypsy fortune teller, in a "Doss house on the Mint" and his second wife about to marry her cousin, who has faithfully loved her all these years, but who is also the only person to whom Cuthbertson has confided his secret. Both friend and wife, presumably, believe Cuthbertson to be dead. But all is well, since it turns out the gypsy fortune teller was married twice, making her later marriage to Cuthbertson illegal. Cuthbertson saves the gypsy's life when her first husband tries to stab her, in return for which she stops the marriage of Constance and Featherston in a dramatic scene in the Royal Chapel.

Leonard Boyne was highly commended in his role as Cuthbertson. The Times reported, "there could not tread the boards a more gallant soldier." Miss Robins played the part of second wife Constance (not exactly a patient Griselda, but still well named) "more artistically but less dramatically" according to the Theatre (1 September 1891). The Times noted an aura of Hedda Gabler remained in her performance of Constance.

Mrs. Patrick Campbell played the disreputable gypsy. Her costume, makeup and general appearance were applauded by both reviewers, though her acting was described by both as amateurish.

James East played the part of Redruth, the gypsy's first husband, a good man ruined by a bad wife, now moody, dissolute and given to drink. The Theatre commented East was "moody and reckless at first, he lets you see that there was a good, brave, fellow spoilt by his misfortunes."

Also complimented in their roles were R. H. Douglas as the young trumpeter, Charles Dalton as the unsuccessful suitor, and J. D. Beveridge as a Sergeant-Major.

The 1891-2 season closed with the production of The White Rose, an adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's novel Woodstock by Sims and Buchanan. The playwrights made rather free use of Scott's characters, not to mention their historical precedents. The plot involves the young Colonel Markham Everard, a Roundhead, in love with the aristocratic Alice Lee. When her father Albert's Woodstock estate is confiscated by Cromwell and granted to one of his followers, Everard defends the Lees and throws out the intruder, who of course complains of his conduct to Cromwell. However, Everard is defended by Cromwell's daughter Elizabeth, secretly in love with Everard, and his cause prevails.

The plot is further complicated when Albert Lee hides the escaping Charles Stuart in his house. Charles, unable to resist any woman, tries to make love to Alice, but his attempt is interrupted by Everard. A duel follows, dramatically ended when Alice throws herself in front of the King and reveals his identity. Everyone agrees to smuggle Charles through the Parliament lines, but his deed is detected by Colonel Yarborough, the ousted would-be estate snatcher. Everard is condemned to death by Cromwell, but saved in the nick of time by Elizabeth; he nevertheless goes on to marry his Alice.

According to the Theatre (1 June 1892), the part of Everard was played with "romance and earnestness" by Leonard Boyne. Charles Cartwright "gave a very powerful rendering of the Cromwell that the authors drew." A dream sequence, where he was supposed to witness the execution of Charles I and the subsequent death of his daughter, "brought down the house." Mrs. Patrick Campbell's Elizabeth was pathetic and moving, "the perfect type of a gentle, loving woman." George Cockburn "made his mark as the intriguing and envious Colonel Yarborough." Miss Evelyn Millard pleased the audience as Alice Lee, though the reviewer thought she was a bit too stagey at times. Comic relief was admirably supplied by Clara Jecks, Lionel Rignold and Charles H. Collette.

The theatre was closed on January 20, 1892, for the funeral of the Duke of Clarence. The unfortunate Albert Victor Christian Edward was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VII). His dissolute life caused much royal concern, but he died of pneumonia before he could marry or rule. His one claim to fame is the discredited theory that he was the infamous Jack the Ripper. The royal physician, Sir William Gull, has also been accused of being the Whitechapel serial killer.

The season ended on 10 June 1892.

© Copyright 1992 by Alfred L. Nelson and Gilbert B. Cross

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