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Review of the Production from The Times
Monday, March 23, 1874
 
CRITERION

On Saturday night the new theatre in the Regent-circus was opened for the first time, and the miscellaneous crowd which gathered about the entrance, and manifested as much immobility as the police would permit, showed that the event was regarded as important by a numerous body who had no intention whatever of witnessing the performance…

That the opening of the Criterion caused unusual excitement was but natural. Here was an entirely new theatre, raised, or rather sunk, at a point which is familiar to all fashionable and quasi-fashionable London, but which has hitherto been unexplored by theatrical enterprise. The programme, too, comprises new pieces by two of the most celebrated authors of the day, – Mr. H. J. Byron [An American Lady] and Mr. W. S. Gilbert, – and the company includes several of the most popular performers…

Mr. Gilbert’s “musical extravaganza,” Topseyturveydom, began, according to modern notions, rather late in the evening. The leading notion of the piece may be very briefly enunciated, and, that done, the reader may almost arrive at the piece itself by a process of deduction. Imagine a land in which ceilings are down and floors are up, in which female ugliness is courted and female beauty despised, in which people are born old and grow into children, so that a baby in arms is the great grandmother of a full-blown man; imagine also, an English M.P. whose country has reached a very advanced state of perfection visiting Topseyturveydom, and there both feeling and causing suspicion, and all is before you.

Mr. Gilbert writes with his usual power of sarcasm, and displays his wonted ingenuity; but there is this disadvantage of his leading notion – that it necessitates the repetition of what is virtually the same joke almost ad infinitum. Fancy takes one leap, and then runs in a groove. In a region where plus means minus, we may smile complacently at the equation “5+2=3,” and even derive gratification from the corresponding equation “5–2=7,” but the “fun” of fifty equations formed on this principle would be monotonous.

The piece caused much mirth, and was sustained by a cast including Mr. J. Clarke, Mr. Dewar, and Miss Hughes, but perhaps the greatest success was achieved by a song charmingly sung by Miss Fanny Holland, and unanimously encored.

Messrs. T. Grieve and Son are the scene-painters of the establishment, and do ample justice to their well-established name. The one decoration that suffices for the three acts of the American Lady is an exquisitely-appointed drawing-room, and the spirit of Topseyturveydom is well embodied in the King’s reception-room, with its chairs and tables on the top of the stage, and the chandelier rising proudly from the boards.


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