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CHARING-CROSS THEATRE

(The Times, 1869)

Again a new theatre! Old playgoers have scarcely begun to reconcile themselves to the existence of the Holborn, and the Queen's, and the Gaiety, and the Globe, and here we have a new theatre in King William Street, Strand being, in fact, the Polygraphic Hall, which long enlivened by the pleasantries of Mr. Woodin, is now converted into a regular playhouse, of light and elegant appearance, with two tiers of boxes, abundant stalls, a limited pit, and no gallery — altogether an edifice satisfactorily answering to the favourite word "bijou" and well worth seeing.

 

The lessees, Messrs. E. W. Bradwell and W. R. Field, seem to have modelled their programme on that of the Gaiety — that is to say, they start with an "operetta," proceed to a drama of serious intent, and wind up with a burlesque. The present "operetta" — modestly styled an operatic sketch — is so extremely slight and so much more sketchy than operatic, that mention of its name — Coming of Age — will be sufficient. Much more important is the drama, in three acts, written by Mr. C. S. Cheltnam, and entitled Edendale. The old collision brought about by two lovers, whose loves are crossed by diversity of faction, derives a new aspect from the circumstance that neither of the parties are neither Guelphs and Ghibelines, nor Cavaliers and Roundheads, nor Huguenots and Leaguers, but the Northern and Southern sections of America. Ada Vandeleur, the Confederate Juliet, is made of sterner stuff than Edmond Fairholt, the Northern Romeo, for whereas he regrets the difficulty that has sprung up in the States, and cannot see it as an obstacle to his union with an amiable young lady to whom he has been long attached, she, like a true Virginian, rejoices to throw off a lover who serves in the Federal Army, being heartily applauded by her brother, a madcap boy, who yearns to thrash the Yankees. Much trouble ensues before the domestic wound caused by civil discord is thoroughly healed. Ada's father, a respectable Colonel Vandeleur, is killed, her mother, who was the merriest of wives, has become the dismallest of widows, and the madcap brother falls into the hands of the victors. Under these circumstances, Edmond Fairholt, now a general, has hard work in recovering the affections he has lost through political difficulties. However, as he tries to liberate the brother and prevents the family estate of the Vandeleurs from being confiscated, Ada at last obeys the dictates of her heart, and felicity becomes so general, that even the bereaved Mrs. Vandeleur may be expected to console herself with a second husband in the shape of a good-humoured member of Congress. The action of this drama is somewhat disproportionate to the quantity of its dialogue, and the personages occasionally talk rather too much, as if they were citing leaders from the journals on opposite sides published during the Civil War. But, altogether, the plot is neatly constructed, and the interest rises as the play proceeds.

 

The burlesque, entitled The Pretty Druidess; or, the Mother, the Maid, and the Mistletoe, is a travestie of Norma, by Mr. W. S. Gilbert, who, by his abstinence from the more vulgar jokes, and the polish of his verse, had gained for himself a position apart from that of the ordinary writers of extravaganza. The present burlesque, in which the old story is comically and gracefully told, is quite up to his usual standard.

 

The company at the new theatre is compact and efficient, comprising many performers whose names are unknown to the London public, though the most conspicuous persons are Mr. J. G. Shore, well known as an actor of gentlemen, who is satisfactorily placed as Edmond Fairholt in the drama, and the invaluable Miss Hughes, who shows her versatility by representing the Virginian lady in the drama, and the mock Druidess in the burlesque. The chief vocalist is Miss Cicely Nott. Among the novices are Miss Ernstone, from Manchester, a young lady of prepossessing appearance, who plays Ada Vandeleur, a somewhat portentous personage, with much force; Miss Kathleen Irwin, from Newcastle, who plays in all three pieces with much spirit; and Miss Fanny Garthwaite, who humourously represents a negress. The scenery, by Messrs. J. E. Meadows and Julian Hicks, is in admirable taste.

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