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Lady Dunlo (Belle Bilton)

March 23, 2013

a cabinet photograph of Lady Dunlo, the former Belle Bilton (1867-1906) of the Sisters Bilton, who, upon the death of her father-in-law in 1891 became the Countess of Clancarty
(photo: Bassano, London, circa 1890)

The Babes in the Wood, pantomime, produced at the Prince’s Theatre, Manchester on 21 December 1889,
with Lady Dunlo and Flo Bilton (formerly the Sisters Bilton), Little Tich, Jennie M’Nulty and Phoebe Carlo, et al

THE BABES IN THE WOOD AT THE PRINCE’S
‘Great efforts are being put forth to make the forthcoming pantomime of The Babes in the Wood, at the Prince’s Theatre, Manchester, even more than worthy of the reputation of that house. it promises, above all things, to be pantomime of surpassing beauty. The majority of the dresses and their fair wearers are likely to be of a high degree of attractiveness. Scenery, by K.J. M’Lennan and others, of great brilliance, has been prepared and the company of actors and actresses – and specially the latter – it would be difficult to eclipse. Mr. George Dance has written the book, and the interpolated lyrics and local references are the work of Mr. W. Richardson. The music of the pantomime is under the capable care of Mr. Alfred Haines.

Flo Bilton
a cabinet photograph of Flo Bilton (b. 1872), formerly with her sister Belle (Lady Dunlo) as the Sisters Bilton, English music hall singer and dancer
(photo: LPSCo, probably London, early 1890s)

‘The principal characters and their representatives will be: The Baron, Mr. Arnold Bell (who is stage manager of the pantomime); the Baroness, Miss Lydia Lillian; the Baron’s Page, Little Tich; Willie and Teddy (the Babes), Miss Jennie M’Nulty and Miss Phoebe Carlo; Tabitha (the schoolmistress), Mr. Tom Bass; Dorcas (the pupil teacher), Miss Nannie Harding; the ruffians, Mr. Louis Kellagher and Mr. Witty Watty Walton; Robin Hood, Miss Florence Bilton; Little John, Miss Clara Bernhardt; Will Scarlet, Miss Madge Mildren; Allan-a-Dale, Miss Florence Dene; Mat the Miller, Mr. Villiers; Maid Marion, Lady Dunlo; Hubert and Lionel, the miller’s sons, Miss Lily Edmonds and Miss Denny Fitzherbert; the miller’s men, the Avolos; Peter Pinder (the innkeeper), Mr. A. Bolton; Margery and Patience, villagers, Miss Mabel Love and Miss Daisy Ashton; Friar Tuck, Mr. Walter Wright; Sergeant O’Neill, Mr. Alfred Sakee; Corporal O’Branigan, Mr. Walter Lonnen; Captain Peveril, Miss Ada Blanche; the Archdruid (the demon), Mr. John Henry Dew; the Fairy Queen, Miss Ruth d’Aunton. The first performances will take place on the 21st December.’
(The Manchester Weekly Times, Manchester, England, Saturday, 14 December 1889, p. 2h)

Madge Mildren
a cabinet photograph of Madge Mildren (fl. late 1880s/early 1890s), English actress, as Will Scarlett in Babes in the Wood, Prince’s Theatre, Manchester, 21 December 1889. Miss Mildren was subsequently connected with the Gaiety Theatre, London, where she appeared in Carmen-Up-To-Data (photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, 1889)

THE BABES IN THE WOOD AT THE PRINCE’S
The Babes in the Wood is a very luxurious pantomime; yet this exceeding richness is a sort of chastened luxury which will commend itself to the most refined tastes. The pictures within the frame of the proscenium are one after another magnificent, displaying resources, inventiveness, and above all, taste, on the part of Mr. T.W. Charles. Mr. George Dance’s book is more or less responsible for this; but the main credit due to him is that of telling a straightforward story in such a manner as to give opportunity to clever performers, rhyming with more than ordinary neatness and being careful always to measure his lines with one common foot rule. The first scene is a large picture – probably of Stonehenge – called the ”Hemlock Stone,” where long-bearded druids hold converse. In this weird region we behold burlesque on the incantation scene in Macbeth. Mr. John H. Dew’s singing of the Druid King is a hit, and so is the ludicrous Highland fling of the venerable Druids. Then, with tinklings from the orchestra and a blaze of silvery light from the flies, Titania and the fairies come rustling on. The net dramatic result of scene 1. is that the Druids vow vengeance against Robin Hood, whom Titania and the fairies protect. Green moonlight vanishes, hoary boulders collapse, and in an instant the village of Bumblebee, radiant as an August sun can make it, bursts upon the sight. The theatre rings with applause, and on the first night, Mr. M’Lennan, the scenic artist, was called and bowed again and again. Shepherds and shepherdesses and village beauties come trooping in by the score, until the whole stage is a swaying garden of infinite colour. These revels are held in honour of the wedding of the Bad Baron (Mr. Arnold Bell). The new Baroness (Miss Lydia Lillian) is a professional beauty, with a temper which enables her to hold her own anywhere. The Baron has a footman of the name of Bantam, which appropriately describes the most remarkable performer in the pantomime. Little Tich – for that is his name – is a young gentleman who cannot be much more than three feet high. The audience quickly recognises in him a consummate comedian. At his every gesture the audience roar with delight. Then two more funny people come on – Mr. Witty Watty Walton and Mr. Louis Kellagher, the ruffians of the play – and when Robin Hood (Miss Florence Bilton) and his merry-men, who have all the time been amusing themselves with the village beauties, have been proclaimed outlaws by a regiment of comic soldiers, the scene closes with a lively chorus. Here it may be mentioned that the village beauties, presonated by Miss Mabel Love, Miss Mary Marden, Miss Edith Milton, and Miss Daisy Ashton, are all very well worthy of the name. We are next introduced to Bumblebee Board School, where Miss Tabitha Bluestocking (Mr. Tom Bass) and Dorcas (Miss Nannie Harding) are teaching the young ideal how to shoot under great difficulties. Among the obstreperous pupils are the Baron’s nephew and niece, Willie and Tillie – not the tiny babes of the picture books, but two charming adults, Miss Jennie M’Nulty and Miss Phoebe Carlo. Gag’em and Scrag’em, the ruffians, disguised as schoolboys, arrive here and lure the Babes away. ”The Road to the Forest” – a beautifully painted scene showing a receding tunnel of russet foliage – is lowered, and when it rises ”Robin Hood’s Glen” is disclosed. This scene is admirable for its distance, a sunlit gorge with brown cliffs rising from the depths high above the trees. When the evolutions of green-dressed foresters are finished, Maid Marion strolls in in the person of Lady Dunlo. It is at once seen that her ladyship’s photographs only do her bare justice. Lack of spirit characterises both her acting and her singing, but her dancing and her costume are charming. A couple of soldier spies (Mr. Alfred Saker and Mr. Walter Lonnen) are dragged in, and Robin Hood, finding he is in peril, departs with his merry men to find the enemy. Then we come to ”The Depths of the Wood” and the famous fight between the ruffians. The next scene is ”The Fairies’ Home in Dreamland.” It serves as a suitable background for an exquisite ballet, called ”The Wedding of the Months and flowers.” In ”Friar Lawrence’s Cell” we are treated to some very comical lovemaking between the Friar (Mr. Walter Wright) and the schoolmistress, and to some wonderful dulcimer playing by the Avolos. Scene 9, ”The Windmill” – a glimpse far up over sparkling cascades to the head of a wooded glen – is perhaps the finest of all Mr. M’Lennan’s efforts. A spirited clog dance by a white-dressed ballet opens the action. Then comes the irresistible Little Tich in a pair of boots nearly as big as himself, and he indulges in antics which throw the audience into prolonged convulsions. Other scenes are given before dramatic matters are put straight. The vanquished villain returns, the Baron repents, and the Babes are restored to their rights, and the customary patriotic song closes the scene. Altogether Mr. Charles is to be congratulated on a pantomime which is not likely to be surpassed for constant exuberant fun, and which it would be difficult to equal for the beauty and splendour of its scenes.’
(The Manchester Weekly Times, Manchester, England, Saturday, 28 December 1889, p. 2d)

Mabel Love
a cabinet photograph of Mabel Love (1874-1953), English actress and dancer
(photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, late 1880s)

‘A second edition of the pantomime, The Babes in the Wood, was performed for the first time at the Prince’s, Manchester, on Monday evening. New music, new songs, and other novel features were freely introduced. Little Tich proved a host in himself, his eccentricities of movement being the most distinctly humorous feature of the pantomime. Lady Dunlo and Miss Florence Bilton introduced a pretty new dance, which they executed admirably.’
(Manchester Times, Manchester, England, Saturday, 22 February 1890, p. 6c)

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