|Review from The
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The Daily News, Wed., Dec. 27, 1871, p. 2.
Thespis; or, the Gods grown Old is the title of the new burlesque provided by Mr. W.S. Gilbert for this theatre. We did entertain a sort of idea that the gods, having arrived at a certain age, were expected to stop there; but of course Mr. Gilbert, like other burlesque writers, must know best. Accordingly, in the opening of Thespis, we find Diana (an elderly goddess, carefully wrapped in shawls and cloaks, with goloshes on her feet and a respirator over her mouth) and Apollo (an ancient buck with an assumed air of juvenility), complaining of age and the consequent trouble their duties cause them. Mercury indeed, who appears to have preserved his juvenility for the express purpose of being made the drudge of the rest of the gods, gives but a faint idea of the state of dotage the deities are reduced to when he states as a fact that he has just returned from earth with a “set of false teeth and a box of life pills for Jupiter, an invisible peruke and a bottle of hair dye for Apollo, a respirator and a pair of goloshes for Cupid, and a full-bottomed chignon, some auricomous fluid, a box of pearl-powder, and a pot of rouge for Venus.” While the gods are thus lamenting, and Jupiter in particular is dreading the approaching dissolution of his power, Thespis, a theatrical manager, arrives with his travelling company, and proposes that Jupiter and the rest of the deities shall descend to earth, hear and see what people think of them, and judge for themselves as to the best means to take to restore their influence; while Thespis and his company shall carry on the business as gods and goddesses in their absence.
Although thunderstruck at the audacity of the proposal, Jupiter at length consents on the understanding that if Thespis succeeds, his name shall die with him, but if he fails he shall be constituted the Father of the Drama, and held accountable for everything that every author may write in all ages to come, a fearful responsibility that Thespis broods over, but at length accepts. Thespis and his company are now left to themselves, and a serious complication ensues, which Mercury describes in some clever verses, with some bright and sparkling, if not very original, music by Mr. Arthur Sullivan. Mr. Toole, as Thespis, and Miss Farren, as Mercury, are the life and soul of the piece, while Mdlle. Clary as Sparkeion, Miss Constance Loseby as Nicemis, Miss Berend as Pretteia, and Miss Annie Tremaine as Daphne, render important musical service. The burlesque on the whole was fairly successful, and will doubtless amuse the public for some time to come.
Thespis was preceded by Mr. Byron’s drama, Dearer than Life, in which Mr. Toole resumed his original and well-known character of Michael Garner. Mr. Maclean and Mr. J.G. Taylor respectively played the characters originally represented by Mr. Lionel Brough and Mr. Irving; and Miss Ada Cavendish played Lucy Garner with much pathos.
Jupiter, Mars, and the rest of the deities return to Olympia [sic], and are horrified at what has occurred. Jupiter, however, ultimately resumes his sceptre, and Thespis and his company are allowed to return to earth, hampered only with the slight inconvenience that they are to return as eminent tragedians whom nobody goes to see.
It will have been seen that the plot is of a somewhat meagre description. There is, however, some smart dialogue, and the songs are taking, notably a very funny story of a railway traveller, sung by Mr. Toole, and a song called “The Maid of Arcadee,” [sic] particularly well sung by Mdlle. Clary.
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