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Charles Lauri junior as the monkey in The Sioux, a mimetic sketch at the Canterbury music hall, London, 1894

May 22, 2015

The front cover of The Amusing Journal, published in London, Saturday, 22 September 1894, features ‘A Photograph from Life on One Negative. From a Photo specially taken for the “A.J.” by Alfred Ellis, 20 Upper Baker Street, N.W.’ The caption further states, ‘EXCITING INCIDENT AT THE CANTERBURY. – Mr. Chas. Lauri attacked by a Gorilla.’

Charles Lauri junior (1860-1903), English pantomimist and animal impersonator, whose repertoire had long included apes of one sort or another, devised an ‘Indian pantomime ballet divertissement’ for the Alhambra, Leicester Square, entitled The Sioux, which was produced on Monday, 12 October 1891. According to The Era (London, Saturday, 17 October 1891, p. 16a), the music was by Walter Slaughter, ‘costumes by M. and Madame Alias, and incidental dances arranged by Francis Wagner. The scene is a picturesque settlement in the “Wild West.” Here the settler (Mr H. Plano) and his daughter (Miss Hooton) and his little son (Miss Taylor) and his Nigger slave (Mr H. Ewins) seem to be very happy notwithstanding that some murderous Indians are prowling about, and they become happier still with the appearance of the settler’s eldest son (Mr F. Kitchen), a gallant and and handsome young middy, who has been sailing the seas. Of course, he is welcome for himself alone, but he is doubly welcome seeing that he has brought along some very pretty present and one very ugly one in the shape of a man-monkey (Mr Charles Lauri). It is to that monkey we have to look for the principal fun, for, although the settle is very vigorous when it comes to fighting, and the middy can dance very nimbly, and the Nigger servant is exceedingly active, and when occasion calls can double himself up in a tale in less than no time, the man-monkey claims all the attention, and it is not diverted even when a section of the Alhambra corps de ballet, with their beauty concealed by Indian disguises and hideous “war paint,” come on headed by their chief (Mr H. Kitchen), and, armed with formidable knives and axes, proceed to dance their grotesque dances, and finally to set fire to the settler’s house. The man-monkey is not to be denied. He will drag a “go-cart,” or play at ball, or spoil the dinner and set everybody sneezing by playing too freely with the pepper-box, or outdo the middy in dancing, or cut funny antics before a mirror, or pelt the Indian enemy with bricks, or masquerade as a soldier, or walk a perpendicular rope with all the skill of a Japanese funambulist. This rope ascent and descent by Mr Charles Lauri is the most notable thing in connection with The Sioux, and on Monday evening it called for a hurricane of applause. There is much leaping through windows, and many strange disappearances through trick boxes and sacks, and in the end, when the man-monkey has assisted the settler’s youngest daughter to escape from the burning house, and has been shot, the artist give a remarkable illustration of pantomimic skill in the realisation of the animal’s death.’

Charles Lauri subsequently adapted The Sioux ballet as a mimetic sketch for the music hall stage, giving the first performance at the Canterbury, Westminster Bridge Road, London, on 10 September 1894. The piece ran for a week or so before setting out on a UK tour. The part of the daughter was played by 9 year old Maud Violet Street, for whom a special license was granted.

Police Intelligence, Lambeth, south London, before Mr. Andrew Hopkins, magistrate
‘Mr. W.H. Armstrong, solicitor, applied on behalf of the manager of the Canterbury and Paragon Music-halls for a licence for a child named Maud Violet Street, not in her ninth year, to appear in a play without words called The Sioux. he explained that she would be on the stage only about half an hour. – Mrs. Street, the mother of the child, said her daughter simply had to play on the stage with a ball, and run about as a child would do in the garden. – Mr. Hopkins: Is there anything else she has to do? – Mr. Armstrong: she has to get into a swing. – Mr. Hopkins: How does she get off the stage? – Mrs. Street: she is brought off by a lady supposed to be her sister. – Mr. Hopkins: What is the play about? – Mrs. Street: It’s an Indian play, but there is nothing to cause any harm to the child. – Mr. Hopkins: does she get carried off by Indians? – Mrs. Street: No, nothing of that sort. – Mr. Armstrong explained that the piece was one in which Mr. Charles Lauri played the part of a monkey. – Mr. Hopkins: there is nothing in which the child is exposed to danger. She is not saved by an animal or anything of that sort? – Mrs. Street: No, sir. – Mr. Hopkins: Very well, then, she shall have the licence.’
(The Standard, London, Wednesday, 22 August 1894, p. 3d)

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