Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

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Phyllis Neilson-Terry as Rosalind, New Theatre, London, May 1911

November 2, 2014

Phyllis Neilson-Terry (1892-1977), as she appeared for 9 matinee performances as Rosalind in a revival of Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It, New Theatre, London, 11 May 1911. Other members of the cast included Philip Merivale, Maurice Elvey, Vernon Steel, Malcolm Cherry, Miriam Lewis and, as Touchstone, Arthur Williams.
(photo: Alfred Ellis & Walery, 51 Baker Street, London, W, negative no. 52936-4)

‘Youth, beauty, stature, presence – Miss Neilson-Terry has all the externals of a first-rate Rosalind. Never was a prettier fellow than her Ganymede. Her past performances, too – and especially that beautiful performance of Viola [His Majesty’s Theatre, London, 7 April 1910] – promised a Rosalind who might catch for us most, if not all, of the flickering play of lights and shades in this April day of a character; particularly when the name of her father [Fred Terry] was announced as that of the ”producer” of the play. And our hopes were only very slightly disappointed. Such young as Miss Neilson-Terry’s is an invaluable asset; but even youth has its own drawbacks, especially when it is let loose on part in which there is plenty of high spirits and laughter and a swashing and a martial outside. To our thinking, Miss Neilson-Terry made just a thought too much of that outside. Like many a Rosalind, or rather Ganymede, she was inclined to be too consistently hearty, even at moments when Rosalind, being really interested in what was toward, would forget to be hearty. Would Rosalind, for instance, have thumped Silvius on the back when she told him to ”ply Phœbe hard”? Again, she is a little too ready to ”make” fun, where there is humour in plenty already. Her reading of Phœbe’s letter to Ganymede we might instance as a case where a much simpler manner would have gained a much stronger effect. And lastly (O spirits and vigour of youth!) she jumps and dances and sways about and clps her hands more than she should. And sometimes she forces her voice.
‘Against this apparently formidable list of complaints we have to set merits that are much more important. Some of them – the natural merits – we have mentioned. Miss Neilson-Terry is a Rosalind who does not allow us to forget that Ganymede, pretending to be Rosalind, is actually Rosalind, and that under the mock love-making with Orlando lies what is to her dead earnest. This most essential idea is constantly peeping out in all sorts of nicely calculated and touching little ways. The swift changes of mood and cross-currents of thought and emotion are nearly all expressed by the tone, the gesture, or the face; and the grave gentleness or simple earnestness, of which we see rather too little, are, when they come, delightful. And we must add that in the interpolated cuckoo-song Miss Neilson-Terry showed a very highly-trained and very pretty singing-voice.
‘The whole production is charming. There is always something one wants to quarrel with in any ”cutting” for the modern stage of a Shakespeare play; but into that we need not go now. The acting is good through, especially that of Miss Miriam Lewes as Celia and Mr. Horace Hodges as Adam; Mr. Arthur Williams made an agreeable Touchstone, and Mr. Vernon Steel was handsome and gallant enough in the not very exacting part of Orlando.’
(The Times, London, 12 May 1911, p. 11c)

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Mdlle. Lillian

February 8, 2013

Mdlle. Lillian (fl. late 1860s/early 1870s), equestrienne and actress
(photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, circa 1869)

Mdlle. Lillian and ‘Beauty’ star in a touring production of Mazeppa, Prince of Wales’s Theatre, Glasgow, week beginning Monday, 25 September 1871
‘The pieces performed in this theatre last night were Mazeppa and the Taming of a Shrew [sic] – in other words, Mdlle. Lillian, or rather Mdlle. Lillian’s ”highly-trained steed,” divided the honours of the night with Shakespeare! Of course, the place of honour was accorded to the noble quadruped – ”Katharine and Petruchio” coming on at the fag-end of the performances. As to Mazeppa, which the playbills inform us is in a ”Grand Equestrian Drama,” it is not easy to write with calmness, and we should not have noticed it were it not that our silence might be construed into approval. Glasgow playgoers, unfortunately, are no strangers to Mazeppa. The ”fiery, untamed steed,” with its half-nude burden, has appeared on our local boards more than once, and it would be needed to dissect the piece, although we may caution such of our readers as have not see in that it bears not the slightest resemblance to Byron’s poem, on which it is advertised as founded. From beginning to end it is one farrago of nonsense, and would be hissed off the stage were it not for the sensational appearance of a ”real live horse,” bearing on its back a scantily clothed woman. That such things should attract delighted ”houses” when Shakespeare means bankruptcy, is not a pleasant sign of the age. Last night this travesty of all this is noble and artistic in the legitimate drama was rendered more than usually ridiculous by the meanness of the mis-en-scene and the unsatisfactory character of the acting. The ”Castle Laurenski,” to which were are introduced in Scene I., is made to do service for almost every succeeding landscape from a garden terrace to gigantic passes and a ”wild retreat amid the mountains;” so that Mazeppa, having started on his furious ride from the Castle, is made to reappear on his dying steed at the very spot from which he set out, and is supposed to be countless miles distant. Indeed, the ride generally was, although not meant to be, burlesque run mad, and we shall not soon forget the ludicrous figure cut by the two unfortunate wolves, whose heads were seen bobbing frantically above the surface of the river in pursuit of the runaway horse. We may be wrong, but they looked remarkably like the two crocodiles which did service in an extravaganza on a former occasion. Almost as rich in its way was the ”desperate conflict of Mazeppa and Premislaus,” which was ”desperate” in the sense of being desperately funny. From the play to the payers is from the frying pan into the fire. The leading rôle of the ”wild horse” was taken by ”Beauty,” the ”highly-trained steed,” whose name ought really to flourish in the bills in large letters. The ”fiery and untamed” Tartar seemed hardly to have attained a true conception of the character, to judge from the complacent and leisurely manner in which he walked the gallop. In the scene also where the ”exhausted steed” is discovered – so exhausted as to be actually dead – his sudden resurrection to life and vigour was in direct violation of the Byronic text. But Beauty at least got through his part, which is more than can be said of all the other performers, and secured for his rider a call before the curtain. Mazeppa was, of course, Mdlle. Lillian, whose various poses were effective, but whose action and delivery were so mediocre that they would never have attracted attention in full dress. Neither Miss Brennan nor Mr Chippendale was suited to the rolês of Olinska and the Castellan. The former’s style is painfully laboured and precise – too stiff for comedy and not intense enough for tragedy, reminding one of the recitations of a clever school girl. Mr Cooke’s Abder Khan was transpontine to a degree, and the rest of the actors were, in sporting parlance, ”nowhere,” except, perhaps, Miss Garland, who showed some little archness. Mazeppa, as we have said, was followed by the Taming of a Shrew [sic], but, after what we had seen, we had no heart for Shakespeare.’
(The Glasgow Herald, Glasgow, Tuesday, 26 September 1871, p. 4d)

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February 8, 2013

Mdlle. Lillian (fl. late 1860s/early 1870s), equestrienne and actress
(photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, circa 1869)

Mdlle. Lillian and ‘Beauty’ star in a touring production of Mazeppa, Prince of Wales’s Theatre, Glasgow, week beginning Monday, 25 September 1871
‘The pieces performed in this theatre last night were Mazeppa and the Taming of a Shrew [sic] – in other words, Mdlle. Lillian, or rather Mdlle. Lillian’s “highly-trained steed,” divided the honours of the night with Shakespeare! Of course, the place of honour was accorded to the noble quadruped – “Katharine and Petruchio” coming on at the fag-end of the performances. As to Mazeppa, which the playbills inform us is in a “Grand Equestrian Drama,” it is not easy to write with calmness, and we should not have noticed it were it not that our silence might be construed into approval. Glasgow playgoers, unfortunately, are no strangers to Mazeppa. The “fiery, untamed steed,” with its half-nude burden, has appeared on our local boards more than once, and it would be needed to dissect the piece, although we may caution such of our readers as have not see in that it bears not the slightest resemblance to Byron’s poem, on which it is advertised as founded. From beginning to end it is one farrago of nonsense, and would be hissed off the stage were it not for the sensational appearance of a “real live horse,” bearing on its back a scantily clothed woman. That such things should attract delighted “houses” when Shakespeare means bankruptcy, is not a pleasant sign of the age. Last night this travesty of all this is noble and artistic in the legitimate drama was rendered more than usually ridiculous by the meanness of the mis-en-scene and the unsatisfactory character of the acting. The “Castle Laurenski,” to which were are introduced in Scene I., is made to do service for almost every succeeding landscape from a garden terrace to gigantic passes and a “wild retreat amid the mountains;” so that Mazeppa, having started on his furious ride from the Castle, is made to reappear on his dying steed at the very spot from which he set out, and is supposed to be countless miles distant. Indeed, the ride generally was, although not meant to be, burlesque run mad, and we shall not soon forget the ludicrous figure cut by the two unfortunate wolves, whose heads were seen bobbing frantically above the surface of the river in pursuit of the runaway horse. We may be wrong, but they looked remarkably like the two crocodiles which did service in an extravaganza on a former occasion. Almost as rich in its way was the “desperate conflict of Mazeppa and Premislaus,” which was “desperate” in the sense of being desperately funny. From the play to the payers is from the frying pan into the fire. The leading rôle of the “wild horse” was taken by “Beauty,” the “highly-trained steed,” whose name ought really to flourish in the bills in large letters. The “fiery and untamed” Tartar seemed hardly to have attained a true conception of the character, to judge from the complacent and leisurely manner in which he walked the gallop. In the scene also where the “exhausted steed” is discovered – so exhausted as to be actually dead – his sudden resurrection to life and vigour was in direct violation of the Byronic text. But Beauty at least got through his part, which is more than can be said of all the other performers, and secured for his rider a call before the curtain. Mazeppa was, of course, Mdlle. Lillian, whose various poses were effective, but whose action and delivery were so mediocre that they would never have attracted attention in full dress. Neither Miss Brennan nor Mr Chippendale was suited to the rolês of Olinska and the Castellan. The former’s style is painfully laboured and precise – too stiff for comedy and not intense enough for tragedy, reminding one of the recitations of a clever school girl. Mr Cooke’s Abder Khan was transpontine to a degree, and the rest of the actors were, in sporting parlance, “nowhere,” except, perhaps, Miss Garland, who showed some little archness. Mazeppa, as we have said, was followed by the Taming of a Shrew [sic], but, after what we had seen, we had no heart for Shakespeare.’
(The Glasgow Herald, Glasgow, Tuesday, 26 September 1871, p. 4d)

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Matheson Lang and Margaret Halstan in Othello, Manchester, 1907

January 15, 2013

a postcard photograph of Matheson Lang and Margaret Halstan
in Lang’s revival of Othello, Queen’s Theatre, Manchester, 12 January 1907. (photo: Percy Guttenberg, Manchester, 1907)

The production toured extensively and was eventually staged in London, with Lang in the title role and Hilda Bayley as Desdemona, at the New Theatre, 11 February 1920.

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January 11, 2013

Alice Marriott (Mrs Robert Edgar, 1824-1900),
English actress and manageress, as Hamlet,
which she first played at Sadler’s Wells, London, on 22 February 1864
(photo: C.B. Walker, 3 Pembridge Villas, London, probably 1864)

Alice Marriott as Hamlet at the Park Theatre, Brooklyn, April 1869
‘If Shakespeare could a-visit the glimpses of the moon and make a tour among our theatres, the most complete revolution of taste he would note would be in the position woman now holds on the stage. In the Augustan era of the drama, women were admitted to the theatre only as spectators. The heroines of the great bard were personated by men, and the play had often to wait till Ophelia shaved. Women have not only asserted their right to representation on the stage, but have invaded the province of the sterner sex, and play men’s parts. We may say, with some satisfaction that, outside of burlesque, women have with rare exceptions never attained to any encouraging success in male characters. The latest aspirant for honors outside of the legitimate business of her sex, is Miss Marriott, who came to this country a short time since, played a brief engagement in new York, and appeared last evening at the Park Theatre in Hamlet. The house was well filled and the lady was very cordially greeted on her entrance. Miss Marriott has a tall commanding figure and, in this role, a fine manly bearing, and she look the part of the youthful prince to perfection. From the words put in the mouth of Hamlet we gather the author’s idea of his physique, – when he says his uncle is ”no more like my father than I to Hercules.” We can hardly recognize this ideal in the robust figures of [Edwin] Forrest, [H.B.] Conway, or even [E.L.] Davenport. In the performance of the role, Miss Marriott trespasses on none of the stage traditions, and attempts no new reading, but she acts the part intelligently and well. She has a rich deep toned voice, and her elocution is admirable.
‘The support was uneven. Miss Louise Hawthorn made her re-appearance here as Ophelia. She looked as handsome and was just as inanimate as ever. Miss Wren played the Queen quite effectively. Mr. Harris adhered to the old stage conception of the Ghost, a solemn, impassive figure, who talks in a sepulchral monotone. This is considered the most impressive, but all you who ever seen it, prefer Mr. Conway’s reading of the part – making the Ghost talk like a sentient being. Mr. Lambe’s Gravedigger was excellent. Three new comers sustained the rather important roles of Caludius, Polonius and Laertes without adding anything to the brilliancy of the performance.
‘Miss Marriott will play Pauline in the The Lady of Lyons this evening. Miss Harris plays Claude.’
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle,, Brooklyn, New York, Tuesday, 20 April 1869, p.2f)