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Morning Post 27 December 1871

In the extravaganza of “Thespis,” which we are now about to notice, the composition of the music by a composer no less eminent than Mr. Arthur Sullivan (warmly cheered on taking his place as a conductor) is a point equal in importance to the authorship of the piece itself, and when it is added that the principal character devolved upon Mr. Toole, it will be seen that a triple chord of strength was formed which should pull play-going London into the walls of the Gaiety for many weeks to come. 

The story of “Thespis” is a simple thread of idea on which the various items of mirth and music are strung.  The gods and goddesses of classical mythology are growing old and want change of air.  They encounter Thespis and his company of players at a pic-nic on Mount Olympus.  An interchange of functions is proposed and resolved upon.  Jupiter and the gods descend to become actors in terrestrial theatres.  Thespis and his charming troupe remain on Olympus to conduct the government of the world.  The rule of Thespis not unnaturally comes to grief, and on the return of the gods to Olympus he and his followers are sentenced, as the penalty for their misgovernment, to become “eminent tragedians” from that time for ever after. 

Our readers will readily discern what room for fun, satire, beauty of scenery and costume, such a design as we have indicated presents.  To a great extent the opportunities were turned to good account, and, though we doubt whether the admirers of Mr. Gilbert would cite “Thespis” as the most brilliant example of his conception or of his dialogue, yet, linked as these were with the charmingly suggestive and characteristic music of Mr. Sullivan, illustrated by an exquisite landscape by Mr. Gordon, brightened with delightful costumes and with faces and forms worthy of such attire — above all, brought home in representation by the irresistible humour of Mr. Toole, the vivacity of Miss Ellen Farren, and the combined talents, both vocal and histrionic, of Mr. Maclean, Mr. F. Sullivan, Mr. Soutar, Mr. Taylor, of Mesdames Clary, Loseby, Tremaine, and L. Wilson, the result was a decided and brilliant success. 

An opening song, by Miss Farren, in the first act, attracted great attention, as did also a duet by Miss Loseby and Miss Tremaine.  A plaintive song, by Madlle.Clary, in the second act, elicited a most deserved encore, but the popular song of the night was that which records the undeserved punishment of a too benevolent railway director.  Mr. Toole gave the solos, and the entire company the chorus, in which the motion of a train was most effectively conveyed to the ear by the music, and to the eye by the singularly appropriate gestures with which it was accompanied by the actors.

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