William Terriss in The Union Jack

June 21, 2013

William Terriss (1847-1897), English actor manager, as Jack Medway in The Union Jack, Adelphi Theatre, London, 18 July 1888
(caricature by Alfred Bryan from The Entr’acte, London, Saturday, 18 August 1888, p. 8)

‘On the reopening of the Adelphi after restoration, July 21st, 1888, The Union Jack was produced. Into his character of “Jack Medway,” who wore the smart uniform of a petty officer in the navy, Terriss threw extraordinary power; “the true breath of passion breathed into the play, enabling him to grip the house, so to speak, by the throat. The grace and dignity with which he wore his simple uniform, the resonant effect of his mellow tones, and the bright intelligence of his piercing glance, won for him half the battle of success. And the triumph was grand and cumulative. The truth and delicacy of his scenes with Miss [Jessie] Millward in the first act of the play, the simple chivalry of his behaviour, and the suggestion of just germinating affection in his voice, were admirable enough. But Terriss rose beyond the region of melodrama in the scene outside the cottage, where Rose Medway confesses to her brother the sad secret of her fall. Here his acting was truly elevated. His agonized start, as if physically wounded, as the terrible truth struck home, the manly recoil after the momentary collapse, the bitterness of the strong man’s supposed grief, were all admirably depicted.’
(from Arthur J. Smythe, with an introduction by Clement Scott, The Life of William Terriss. Actor, Archibald Constable & Co, Westminster, 1898)


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