Royal Strand Theatre

Last updated

Royal Strand Theatre
Barker's Panorama
Rayner's New Subscription Theatre
The New Strand (Subscription) Theatre
Punch's' Playhouse and Marionette Theatre
ChHoneymoon1.jpg
2nd Anniversary Souvenir from A Chinese Honeymoon (1903)
Royal Strand Theatre
Address Strand, Westminster
London
Coordinates 51°30′47″N0°07′03″W / 51.513056°N 0.1175°W / 51.513056; -0.1175 Coordinates: 51°30′47″N0°07′03″W / 51.513056°N 0.1175°W / 51.513056; -0.1175
OwnerBenjamin Lionel Rayner
DesignationDemolished
Capacity c. 1500
Current use Site occupied by station
Construction
Opened15 January 1832
Rebuilt1836 unknown
1858 S. Reynolds and Samuel Field
1865 John Ellis
1882 Charles J. Phipps
Years active18321904
ArchitectCharles Broad

The Royal Strand Theatre was located in the Strand in the City of Westminster. The theatre was built on the site of a panorama in 1832, and in 1882 was rebuilt by the prolific theatre architect Charles J. Phipps. It was demolished in 1905 to make way for Aldwych tube station.

Contents

History

From 1801, Thomas Edward Barker set up a rival panorama to his father's in Leicester Square, at 168/169 Strand. On the death of Robert Barker, in 1806, his younger brother, Henry Aston Barker took over management of the Leicester Square rotunda. In 1816, Henry bought the panorama in the Strand, which was then known as Reinagle and Barker's Panorama, [1] and the two panoramas were then run jointly until 1831. Their building was then used as a dissenting chapel and was purchased by Benjamin Lionel Rayner, a noted actor, in 1832. [2]

Subscription theatre

Rayner engaged Charles Broad to convert and extend the original building as a theatre. This was built in 1832 in seven weeks, at a cost of £3,000. The theatre opened on 15 January 1832, as Rayner's New Subscription Theatre, with a production of Struggles at Starting. Within weeks, the venture failed and was sold to the actress Harriet Waylett, re-opening on 29 May as The New Strand (Subscription) Theatre with Damp Beds. [3] Again, the theatre lacked support and closed in November 1832. The theatre was re-opened in early 1833 as the New Strand Theatre, by Frances Maria Kelly who also based a drama school there. [4] The singer, Rebecca Isaacs was the Directress of Operas at the theatre from 1852 to 1853, and again in 1855. The theatre failed because it was unlicensed, and this put it into competition with London's patent theatres. Presenting plays by subscription was one method of evading the Acts, but tickets could not be sold at the theatre. This was circumvented by selling them at neighbouring shops; and at one point the public were admitted free on purchase of an ounce of rose lozenges for four shillings (stalls), or half an ounce of peppermint drops for two shillings (the pit) from the neighbouring confectioners. [2]

The theatre was again closed under the Patent Acts in March 1835, and the owners brought before the magistrates. It reopened on 25 April 1836, with the necessary licence, under the management of Douglas William Jerrold and William John Hammond. The theatre was enlarged in 1836 and a gallery added in 1839. In 1849 the manager was William Farren. For a while in 1851 it was owned by William Robert Copeland, and known as Punch's' Playhouse and Marionette Theatre. In 1856 the manager was T. Payne.

Frank Talford wrote the earliest burlesque for the Strand, full of excruciating puns and enlivened by bright songs. Mythological subjects were popular. In one such piece in 1850 the afterwards famous Mrs. Stirling played Minerva, Mrs Leigh Murray was Apollo, and Rebecca Isaacs was Venus. [1]

The Swanborough years

In 1858, the theatre was taken over by the Swanborough family (originally Smith). Henry V. Swanborough rebuilt it at a cost of £7,000and opened it on 5 April 1858 as the Royal Strand Theatre. [2] His daughter, Louisa, was acting manager for a couple of years until her marriage to Major Lyon. Henry's eldest son William was also an active manager. Following Henry's depression and suicide in 1863, ownership passed to Henry's widow Mary Ann. [5] Between 1868 and 1871, Eleanor Bufton (married to Arthur Swanborough) managed the Greenwich Theatre, and resources were shared between the two theatres.

According to Erroll Sherson, writing in 1923, the Strand was burlesque's first real nursery and its permanent home. Here graduated Marie Wilton (later Lady Bancroft), Patty Oliver and Edward Terry; each would later maintain the burlesque tradition at the Prince of Wales's, The Royalty, and The Gaiety, respectively. For some years, the Strand's programme began with a short drama, many written by H. T. Craven, including, The Postboy, Milky White, and Meg's Diversion. Then followed a burlesque by H. J. Byron, W. Brough, or F. C. Burnand. [1]

Under the Swanboroughs, the theatre enjoyed success, with Ada Swanborough performing in H. J. Byron's burlettas and featuring a cast that included James Thorne, Edward O'Connor Terry, Miss Raynham, Mrs. Raymond, H. J. Turner and Marie Wilton,. These began with The Lady of Lyons, or Twopenny Pride and Pennytence;Fra Diavolo Travestie, or The Prince, the Pirate and the Pearl;The Maid and the Magpie, or The Fatal Spoon (an early play to include a dance at the end of a song); and The Babes in the Wood and the Good Little Fairy Birds. [6] [7]

The celebrated burlesque on Kenilworth, [8] first performed in 1859 and played over many years, brought the Strand great prosperity. It had a strong cast including Louisa Swanborough as the Earl of Leicester, H. J. Turner as Mike Lambourne, Mrs. Charles Selby as Queen Elizabeth, Marie Wilton as Sir Walter Raleigh, Patty Oliver as Amy Robsart, Charlotte Saunders as Tressillian, John Clarke as Varney and James Bland as Wayland Smith; Bland was reputed to be the king of the burlesque actors. Leicester was later played by Maria Ternan. [9] [10] The burlesque that lived longest in the memories of old playgoers, according to Sherson, was Brough's, The Field of the Cloth of Gold. [11]

Henry Jameson Turner was by far the longest serving actor at the Strand. His first appearances pre-dated the Swanboroughs. He moved from the Lyceum to the Strand in 1849, his first wife, Eleanor, and eldest daughter, Ellen, also appearing with him. [12] He served under both Farren and Payne, and was in the Swanborough's first production. Turner also ran a theatrical agency. His final appearance was at a benefit for the Strand General Theatrical Fund (of which he had been treasurer) in April 1882. [13]

The first appearance of the popular pantomime character, Widow Twankey, played by James Rogers in Byron's version of Aladdin, took place at The Strand in 1861. Other successful works in the 1870s, included the hit operettas Madame Favart and Olivette . It also hosted W. S. Gilbert and Frederic Clay's comic opera Princess Toto in 1876. [14]

The theatre was rebuilt in 1865, re-opening 18 November 1865, destroyed by fire on 21 October 1866 and again rebuilt. [2] In 1882, the theatre was condemned as having inadequate fire precautions and closed on 29 July. It was rebuilt by Charles J. Phipps, re-opening on 18 November 1882 with improved access. The cost to Mrs. Swanborough was heavy. Attempts were made to recoup the expenditure through a sale, but this was unsuccessful. Mrs Swanborough had to go through the Bankruptcy Court in 1885.

Sherson said that, after this, the house ceased to be the old Strand. It came under the direction of Alexander Henderson, who produced adaptations of French light opera with the best results. Though it regained a portion of its vogue under the direction of a very clever American actor, John S. Clarke, it was no longer one of the attractions of the London theatrical world. The musical comedy A Chinese Honeymoon opened in October 1901 and ran at the theatre for a record-breaking 1,075 performances, until closing in 1904. [2]

Demolition

A 1901 postcard of Wych Street, shortly before its demolition. It lay north of the theatre, but was typical of the area. 1901 WychStreet.jpg
A 1901 postcard of Wych Street, shortly before its demolition. It lay north of the theatre, but was typical of the area.

In the 16th century, Strand had hosted many grand houses by the River Thames and the area began to be built up. By the end the 18th, it had become a notorious rookery - an overcrowded slum. The area had been unaffected by the Great Fire of London and survived with narrow streets, unsuited to the new traffic. A scheme was instituted to build a new road, Kingsway between Holborn and Strand, culminating in a grand crescent, Aldwych. After many false starts, the scheme was begun in 1901 by the London County Council. To go with this a link was built to the tube station at Holborn, and in 1905 the theatre was acquired by Act of Parliament and demolished to enable Aldwych underground station to be constructed on the site. The many actors who were attached to the theatre protested against its deconstruction. The station is now closed but is said to be haunted by an angry actress who still scares people today. [2]

Apart from this theatre, the Olympic, Opera Comique, Globe, Old Gaiety and many others were swept away by the scheme, they were replaced by the Gaiety, Aldwych and New Theatres, and a realignment of the Lyceum.

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Sherson, Erroll, ‘Lost London Playhouses’, The Stage, 28 June 1923, p. 21. One of a series of articles later published in a book of same name in 1925.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 From Stage to Platform: The Metamorphosis of the Strand Theatre 18301905, Paul Hadley (London Passenger Transport 1984 No. 12 April, pp. 588-593)
  3. "New Strand Theatre". Globe. 30 May 1832. p. 3.
  4. Berwick, Frederick (2015). British Drama of the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge University Press. p. 46.
  5. "swanborough family strand theatre". www.sensationpress.com.
  6. Lee, Amy Wai Sum. "Henry J. Byron" [ permanent dead link ], Hong Kong Baptist University
  7. "Royal Strand Theatre, Aldwych (Arthur Lloyd Theatre history". www.arthurlloyd.co.uk. Retrieved 9 July 2008.
  8. A parody of Walter Scott's novel Kenilworth.
  9. Obituary, London and Provincial Entr'acte, 7 January 1899, p. 6
  10. Merry-go-Round, London and Provincial Entr'acte, 24 October 1891, p. 4.
  11. Advertisement, The Era, 12 July 1874 p. 8.
  12. Advertisement, The Era, 23 September 1849
  13. Matinee at The Strand, The Era, 22 April 1882.
  14. Stedman, p. 142

Related Research Articles

Henry James Byron

Henry James Byron was a prolific English dramatist, as well as an editor, journalist, director, theatre manager, novelist and actor.

John Lawrence Toole

John Lawrence Toole was an English comic actor, actor-manager and theatrical producer. He was famous for his roles in farce and in serio-comic melodramas, in a career that spanned more than four decades, and the first actor to have a West End theatre named after him.

Royalty Theatre

The Royalty Theatre was a small London theatre situated at 73 Dean Street, Soho, which opened in 1840 as Miss Kelly's Theatre and Dramatic School and finally closed to the public in 1938. The architect was Samuel Beazley. The theatre's opening was ill-fated, and it was little used for a decade. It changed its name twice and was used by an opera company, amateur drama companies and for French pieces.

Gaiety Theatre, London

The Gaiety Theatre was a West End theatre in London, located on Aldwych at the eastern end of the Strand. The theatre was first established as the Strand Musick Hall in 1864 on the former site of the Lyceum Theatre. In 1868, it became known as the Gaiety Theatre and was, at first, known for music hall and then for musical burlesque, pantomime and operetta performances. From 1868 to the 1890s, it had a major influence on the development of modern musical comedy.

Scala Theatre Former theatre in London, England

The Scala Theatre was a theatre in Charlotte Street, London, off Tottenham Court Road. The first theatre on the site opened in 1772, and the theatre was demolished in 1969, after being destroyed by fire. From 1865 to 1882, the theatre was known as the Prince of Wales's Theatre.

Victorian burlesque Theatrical genre

Victorian burlesque, sometimes known as travesty or extravaganza, is a genre of theatrical entertainment that was popular in Victorian England and in the New York theatre of the mid-19th century. It is a form of parody in which a well-known opera or piece of classical theatre or ballet is adapted into a broad comic play, usually a musical play, usually risqué in style, mocking the theatrical and musical conventions and styles of the original work, and often quoting or pastiching text or music from the original work. Victorian burlesque is one of several forms of burlesque.

Meyer Lutz

Wilhelm Meyer Lutz was a German-born British composer and conductor who is best known for light music, musical theatre and burlesques of well-known works.

Olympic Theatre

The Olympic Theatre, sometimes known as the Royal Olympic Theatre, was a 19th-century London theatre, opened in 1806 and located at the junction of Drury Lane, Wych Street and Newcastle Street. The theatre specialised in comedies throughout much of its existence. Along with three other Victorian theatres, the Olympic was eventually demolished in 1904 to make way for the development of the Aldwych. Newcastle and Wych streets also vanished.

W. S. Penley

William Sydney Penley was an English actor, singer and comedian who had an early success in the small role of the Foreman in Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury. He later achieved wider fame as producer and star of the prodigiously successful Brandon Thomas farce, Charley's Aunt and as the Rev Robert Spalding in several productions of Charles Hawtrey's farce The Private Secretary.

Nellie Farren 19th century English actress and singer

Ellen "Nellie" Farren was an English actress and singer best known for her roles as the "principal boy" in musical burlesques at the Gaiety Theatre.

Arthur Williams (actor)

Arthur Williams was an English actor, singer and playwright best remembered for his roles in comic operas, musical burlesques and Edwardian musical comedies. As a playwright, Williams wrote several farces as well as some dramas.

John Hollingshead

John Hollingshead was an English theatrical impresario, journalist and writer during the latter half of the 19th century. After a journalism career, Hollingshead managed the Alhambra Theatre and was later the first manager of the Gaiety Theatre, London. Hollingshead also wrote several books during his life.

Robert Reece British dramatist

Robert Reece was a British comic playwright and librettist active in the Victorian era. He wrote many successful musical burlesques, comic operas, farces and adaptations from the French, including the English-language adaptation of the operetta Les cloches de Corneville, which became the longest-running piece of musical theatre in history up to that time. He sometimes collaborated with Henry Brougham Farnie or others.

Martha Cranmer Oliver

Martha Cranmer Oliver, also known as Pattie Oliver or M. Oliver, was an English actress and theatre manager.

Julia Gwynne

Julia Gwynne was an English opera singer and actress best remembered for her performances with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company from 1879 to 1883. She married producer George Edwardes.

Queens Theatre, Long Acre Former theatre in London (1847–1878)

The Queen's Theatre in London was established in 1867 as a theatre on the site of St Martin's Hall, a large concert room that had opened in 1850. It stood on the corner of Long Acre and Endell Street, with entrances in Wilson Street and Long Acre. The site is within the modern Camden, part of Covent Garden.

William Farren Jr.

William Farren Jr. was an English actor.

John DAuban

Frederick John D'Auban was an English dancer, choreographer and actor of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Famous during his lifetime as the ballet-master at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, he is best remembered as the choreographer of many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

<i>Monte Cristo Jr.</i>

Monte Cristo Jr. was a Victorian burlesque with a libretto written by Richard Henry, a pseudonym for the writers Richard Butler and Henry Chance Newton. The score was composed by Meyer Lutz, Ivan Caryll, Hamilton Clarke, Tito Mattei, G. W. Hunt and Henry J. Leslie. The ballet and incidental dances were arranged by John D'Auban, and the theatre's musical director, Meyer Lutz, conducted. The play's doggerel verse was loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

<i>The Bohemian G-yurl and the Unapproachable Pole</i>

The Bohemian G-yurl and the Unapproachable Pole is a musical burlesque in two acts, with a score by Meyer Lutz to a libretto by Henry James Byron, which played under the management of John Hollingshead at the Gaiety Theatre in London in 1877. It was a parody of the popular opera The Bohemian Girl composed by Michael William Balfe with a libretto by Alfred Bunn.

References