ARBROATH has always proved
so tender-hearted a nurse to the Drama that, although the busiest part
of its theatrical history took place after the founding of touring
companies, it is worth recording a few of the incidents in its early
career. For those who desire fuller details I can recommend no more
enthusiastic guide than P. Charles Carragher, whose Fairport from the
Footlights (1906) affords a dramatic epitome of its variegated story. To
Sir Walter Scott in The Antiquary (circa 1750) we are indebted for a
clue to Arbroath's share in theatrical history. Speaking of his
fellow-traveller to the North, Monkbarns, he considers the possibility
of Lovel being a young actor on the way to the opening of "the little
theatre at Fairport." As Scott gives some details which might well pass
for a description of the new place of entertainment at Horner's Wynd, it
may be assumed that the novelist had sat as an auditor in the old
play-house. Prior to this there is no evidence, beyond the tradition, of
the monks having played their Morality and Miracle-plays within the
great Abbey, or upon the Abbey Green at Arbroath.
English as well as Scots, regarded the drama as the poor "peelywaly"
forbidden thing, so that even in Hay's History of Arbroath the principal
theatrical event we learn is that King Lear was produced for the first
time in the town, at the "New Theatre" on 21st May, 1793. It looks then
as if Arbroath shared with Aberdeen its honour of first erecting a
temple to Thespis, the Aberdeen record placing 1751 as its date.
The "New Theatre,"
Arbroath, whose lessee was a Mr. Hamilton, had been built complete with
stage fittings and scenery, and probably was equipped on the model of
the Edinburgh Theatre, erected twenty-four years before.
As the step-bairn of the
Arts, the Drama must give way to the sterner demand of commerce, and so,
when they wanted a stable at the George Inn, the theatre site had to be
moved across the street. The tenement, of which this theatre formed
part, afterwards became a tobacconist's shop.
In the second decade of the nineteenth
century, Arbroath commenced to savour the pleasures of regular drama.
Arbroath was favoured with long visits from various stock companies:
their stays were necessarily lengthy because of the difficulties of
transport, of baggage, scenery, and other impedimenta, including the
players. Old Ryder included Arbroath in his northern circuit. Having
produced Rob Roy at Perth on 22nd June, 1818, Corbett Ryder, after
touching Dundee, brought his company to Arbroath. The Diana of that
performance was Mrs. Ryder, and Martha was played by the daughter of his
scene-painter. The lady in question was better known afterwards as the
wife of Macready. The Bailie was enacted by the famous Mackay.
The appearance of Chippendale in The Rivals
is also recorded in 1819. Pritchard and Edmund Glover were some of the
older stars who appeared at Arbroath, while in later years such stars as
Miss Heath, Miss Isabel Bateman, Mrs. Siddons, Sheil Barry, Henry
Talbot, Wilson Barrett, and Osmond Tearle appear among the records of
the Arbroath Theatre.
These performances were held in the old
Trades Hall, which, built in the year of Waterloo, ultimately became the
successor to the Arbroath Theatre.
Dundee has always had a living interest in
drama, and it will not be amiss if we summarise some of the leading
events in its theatrical history. Strolling players frequently visited
there, but they were stolen visits, frowned upon; by those in authority.
Dundee may pride itself upon the fact that it produced the dramatist,
James Wedderburn, who was the son of a merchant in the West Kirk Stile.
Wedderburn had imbibed the new learning, having been educated in France,
and was author of tragedies and comedies in the vernacular, the main
trend of which was to satirise the doings and teachings of the clergy.
His tragedy, John the Baptist, was played at the West Port about 1540,
and there is a record of his comedy entitled Dionysias the Tyrant having
been performed in the Playfield, which may be located somewhere near the
rising slope known as The Witches' Knowe.
The Lawrence Fletcher company, which
included among its partners both William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage,
was sent to Aberdeen by the King in 1601, an incident referred to in the
chapter on Aberdeen, and it is thought that probably this same company
gave a performance in Dundee on its way northward. But there exists no
record, and probably the local historian of that date, if he were a good
citizen, would expunge the disgraceful item from his book. Later
Dundonians, of a different and broader calibre, would fain believe that
Shakespeare was of this memorable company, and try to relate the
subsequent production of Macbeth (1605) to "the Bard's`` absorption of
local colour on that visit.
The Scottish clergy endeavoured later on to
blot out the accursed thing as the enemy of all morality and religion,
and they succeeded for many years until the Restoration came to set the
drama on its way again, letting loose the frank, virile, unashamed
stream of wine-house wit, bawdy humour, and brilliant satire.
Dundee depended upon Edinburgh for its
representations of drama. Edinburgh, as the religionists of the time
would say, set the bad example, for, at Allan Ramsay's instigation,
Dundee had a company of players visiting them in 1734.
How welcome the players were may be judged
by the fact that the townsfolk made it a fete day! The players secured
the patronage of the Freemasons who, according to the old record,
marched in procession to the playhouse in their proper apparel, with
hautboys and other music playing before them."
The theatre was probably a temporary
erection, and the dramatic fare provided included Jubilee and the famous
farce, The Devil to Pay, or the Wives Metamorphosed. Between this and
the next Dundee theatrical performance there is a gap of twenty-one
years. Allan Ramsay, the pioneer of Edinburgh drama, had been badly
beaten in his attempt to keep the theatrical flag flying, and, as is
shown in the story of the Edinburgh stage, the theatrical folks led a
furtive life, the most favoured way of evading the law being to produce
a stage-play under the pretence that it was a concert of music, a ruse
that the acting fraternity bad picked up from their London brethren, as
witness Giffard's announcement of 15th October, 1740 (Goodman's Fields
Theatre): "A Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Musick in 2 Parts.
Between the Parts of the Concert will be presented gratis a Comedy
called 'The Stratagem ' by Persons for their diversion."
Despite these depressing circumstances, a
company of players set up a season in the Town House during the months
of May and June, 1755.
The programme is presented as a curiosity.
It will be noted that the Comedy and the Farce, which represented the
major part of the show, were presented gratis and sandwiched between the
first and last parts of the concert programme.
Cynical readers, who complain of modern
British Bumbledom in regard to licensing restrictions, will note that
the modern official follows out hereditary instincts—as also do the
various managements who, during the past decade, have formed ways and
means of evading the law, particularly in the Metropolitan area.
Among the plays performed by the company
were George Barnwell, The Foundling, The Beggar's Opera, and Don Quixot
in England. The comedian, Lancashire, a great favourite in Edinburgh,
was the draw of the show. He kept a public-house in Edinburgh, and, as
his historian writes, "He drank and joked with his customers: laughed
and grew fat: and at length died, respected by many and with the good
word of all."
next company appeared in 1767 at the Town Hall--a "Company of Comedians
from Edinburgh Theatre Royal," and they confined their performances to
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
One of their announcements read:--"There
will be presented a celebrated and historical Tragedy called Jane Shore
(written in imitation of Shakespeare's stile, by N. Rowe, Esq.), the
entertainment to conclude by desire with the farce, Lethe, or Æsop in
Trades Hall harboured several companies, the first of which played in
the large room of the building, and was under the management of Mr. and
Mrs. Bailey, Edinburgh Theatre favourites. Mr. Frank Boyd, who wrote
that liveliest of stage records, The Dundee Stage, pictures to us very
succinctly the Dundee playgoers of those days.
"One likes to imagine
seeing the inhabitants of those days, the men roofed with their perukes,
and in their square-cut coats, plush breeches, and silk stockings, and
the ladies in hoops and dresses stiff with embroidery, figuring as
spectators in the play, and returning home in the sedan by torchlight,
or in stately procession, first coming the maid, bearing a tall lantern
with mould candle; behind marching the mistress, or, perchance two or
three ladies, all holding up calashes (resembling the canopy of a gig)
to guard their head gear. Maid and mistresses alike wore pattens that
lifted them above whatever pools or kennels lay in their way."
In 1784, the Edinburgh
Theatre Company announced a forthcoming performance in Dundee, whereat
the Town Council, greatly perturbed, passed the following resolution, at
the Council meeting on 9th August: —
"The Council and Trades,
being informed that Mr. Jackson, Manager of Edinburgh Theatre, and his
company intend to perform plays in this Burgh, they are of opinion that
exhibiting plays here is not authorised, but in direct opposition to the
laws of the country and prejudicial in many respects to the interests of
Wherefore the Council
took legal means to prevent the performance, and Jackson's company were
banned from entering the Burgh. A pause of thirteen years had worn the
rough edges off that prejudice, for in 1797 theatrical performances were
given in the town without any opposition being raised.
The celebrated playwright, Mrs. Inchbald,
was a member of one company, for she is described at her benefit as
giving "a dramatic entertainment, interspersed with theatrical and
provincial anecdotes, and imitations humourous, vocal, and rhetorical in
four parts called 'The World as It Goes.' " Mrs. Inchbald also delivered
her " New Embellished Lecture on Hearts."
In Dundee at length the theatre idea had
evolved into a habit sufficiently strong to demand a permanent building.
At least Moss and Bell, the proprietors of the regular Dundee Theatre,
thought so, and were courageous enough to erect one at Yeaman Shore in
1800. The edifice, which was "fitted up in a very elegant and superior
style," was opened with a performance of The Merchant of Venice, the
prologue being written by "a gentleman of Dundee." Moss played Shylock
to the entire approbation of the audience; indeed, his performance was
regarded as the best of its day. Moss was a pupil of the then famous
Shylock, Macklin, and his conception of the part was founded on that of
his illustrious master, whose creation had received Pope's imprirnatur:
This is the Jew
That Shakespeare drew."
Moss earned for himself a niche in the
gallery of character creators of this period. Dublin and Edinburgh
having acclaimed his Shylock, his fame travelled to London, and he was
engaged for the Haymarket Theatre.
Until 1803, Moss appeared periodically at
the Yeaman Shore house. As far as the evidence goes, the Dundee house
was not an overwhelming financial success, for two years later we find
Moss acting as manager to the Dumfries Theatre. While performing at
Dumfries Theatre, the story goes that a certain youthful low comedian of
the company exclaimed "If ever I should play Shylock, it shall be after
the style of Mr. Moss." Nine years afterwards, that youth achieved his
wish—at Drury Lane--when his name headed the bill as that famous star,
"comic interlude" written by "a gentleman of this town," and entitled
The Pretty Girl of Dundee was announced for performance in 1802.
Mr. Beaumont next took up the lease of the
Yeaman Shore house—his wife being a favourite Scottish actress----and
the succeeding years show that such famous players as John Kemble,
Edmund Kean, Henry Johnston, Dowton, and others appeared for short
seasons, the variety performances including Sexti, a famous tightrope
dancer, known as the "Little Devil," Belcher and Mendoza, the prize
fighters, in boxing exhibitions, and various other varieties. Latterly,
the house had to close its doors, and during the thirty years that
followed the Yeaman Shore Theatre was used as a storehouse.
Theatrical performances were also given in
Dundee near the top of New Inn entry, in a former place of religious
worship, which, when the Theatre Royal was built, "reverted to its
It dawned upon the stage folks that, if they wanted to hold Dundee for
the drama, they would have to present it in a more attractive place than
the Yeaman Shore Theatre had ultimately proved to be.
Accordingly, the new Theatre Royal was
opened up in Castle Street on June 7, 1810, with a miscellaneous concert
given for the benefit of the funds of the Western Regiment of
Forfarshire Local Militia.
The first dramatic performance was presented
on 13th August, when the Edinburgh Theatre Royal Company appeared in
Cumberland's comedy, The West Indian, and the farce of Fortune's Frolic,
the manager of the new house being Mr. Henry Siddons, the patentee of
the Edinburgh Theatre. Mrs. Henry Siddons, a clever actress of that
period, appeared a fortnight later as Juliana in The. Honeymoon. The
leading man of the company was Daniel Terry, a versatile actor and man
of parts, who enjoyed the intimacy of Sir Walter Scott's friendship.
Stephen Kemble is noted as appearing on
September 3rd as Falstaff in King Henry IV. Kemble has gone down the
theatrical ages chiefly as the Falstaff who required no stuffing. This
is unjust to his memory, as he was a tragedian of some standing.
Mr. W. H. Murray, a capable actor, who was
about this time one of the members of the visiting companies, had taken
over the reins of management of the Edinburgh Theatre Royal after the
demise of Henry Siddons, who. left behind a heritage of debt. He opened
the Dundee house for several short seasons, but relinquished management
with the performance announced for his benefit on October 4th, 1816. The
programme included, besides a comedy and farce, an entertainment,
including singing, dancing, etc., and a grand naval and national
selection of ballads, called "British Tars, or, Saturday Night at Sea,"
the last scene of which represented a grand panoramic view of the city
of Algiers with the destruction of the fleet and batteries by the Allied
Squadrons. The "positively last night" of the company came on 25th
show followed the "Man Salamander"'s performance, and then a tenantless
gap, when we find an auctioneer's notice announcing for sale one-fourth
share of the property, "consisting of four excellent shops with vaulted
roofs on the ground storey, and two stores above occupied as a Theatre."
Mr. Corbett Ryder's Aberdeen company
re-opened the house in August, 1818, with "the new and justly celebrated
national play; of Rob Roy Macgregor, or Auld Langsyne." Ryder was the
original Rob and the most famous delineator of the part, while the
Bailie Nicol Jarvie was the great Mackay. Later on, Guy Mannering was
produced with Mackay in the cast, the Dominic Sampson being played by
"the celebrated Irish comedian," appeared in January, 1819, in his
one-man entertainment, which consisted of a melange of English, Irish,
and Scottish recitations, with appropriate original comic and serious
songs. In May, Miss Duncan, a comedienne of the principal London
theatres, appeared with Ryley, the author of The Itinerant, for a few
nights, while, in October, Matthews at Home and Matthews in his Trip to
Paris was presented by Mathews the elder. On November 3rd, the ineffable
"Mr. M'Roy, late of the Greenock, Ayr, Dumfries, and Berwick - upon -
Tweed Theatres," presented his "brilliant" (sic) company in Cherry's
Soldier's Daughter, with a son of the author as the principal character,
but although, according to M'Roy, it was, with the exception of
best company in Scotland," the Dundonians
were evidently not of that opinion, for they failed to turn up in
numbers sufficient to make it a financial success.
Corbett Ryder again opened up a season early
in 1820, presenting Harry Johnston, the Scottish Roscius, and the
favourite young Norval of Home's Douglas.
On July 17th, the infant prodigy and
liliputian wonder, Miss Clara Fisher, who had enacted the crook-back
tyrant at six and a half years at Drury Lane and was now nine years old,
appeared in the parts of Richard III., Falstaff, and Dr. Pangloss. Local
critics, it is said, went into raptures about her performances.
Evidently they believed in being kind to the bairns.
Charles Mayne Young, of Covent Garden
Theatre followed in Hamlet, but none of these attractions managed to
provide a paying season.
Macready was announced for August 23rd,
making his first appearance at Dundee in a four night engagement,
playing Virginius, Macbeth, Coriolanus, and Sir Charles Racket—an
attraction which served to close the summer season.
It is worth noting that Ryder's own company
then contained such embryo "stars" as Tyrone Power, the most clever of
stage Irishmen, Chippendale, who had been partly educated at the
Edinburgh High School, and the singing man, Paddy Weekes, who soon after
became famous for his delineation of Irish characters.
After closing for a few weeks, for
re-decorations and repairs, Ryder advertised the revival of Rob Roy (its
129th performance), in which Mackay was again the Bailie. Calvert came
from Edinburgh, the tragedian Calcraft appeared for a few nights, and
then came the production of King Henry VIII. on an unprecedented scale
of splendour. But the season was evidently a very bad one for Ryder, for
it was not till February, 1822, that we find another legitimate company
occupying the boards, when E. Crook brought the Pantheon Company from
Edinburgh, among the most notable nights of their season being the
special one-night-only engagement of Dowton, the comedian, in
Bickerstaffe's The Hypocrite.
In August, Ryder had a
final shot for Dundee favours, bringing along an excellent company,
which failed to make a prolonged stay worth while.
For several years the theatrical banner
ceased to fly at the Theatre Royal, and it was not till September of
1824, if we except several scratch performances by M. Alexandre, the
famous ventriloquist, that Ryder thought fit to try his Dundee fortunes
again. On this occasion, he announced the special engagements of the
well-known vocalists — Sinclair, the original Francis Osbaldistone and
the Henry Bertram of Guy Mannering (Covent Garden production), and Miss
Halland. Sinclair was somewhat irascible, and as things failed to go
well with him one night in performing in The Siege of Belgrade, he
abruptly stopped, and the curtain was brought down.
The season had certainly opened badly, but
Ryder struggled on, bringing Paddy Weekes and Mrs. Faucit (mother of
Helen Faucit) to Dundee, but still failing to draw the crowds, he
returned to Edinburgh to open up a season at the Caledonian Theatre.
Bass was the next tenant
to try his luck at the Theatre Royal, opening up in May, 1826,
unfortunately, during the Sacramental Fast Week. Pritchard was the star,
but the company's stay was brief. In October, Bass, having taken up the
lease, gave a revival of The Merchant of Venice and Rosina. The theatre
was done up afresh, and Bass introduced monthly box tickets, but that
innovation did not prove a success. Bas was a capable actor, and his
wife, Miss Munday, soon became popular. Pritchard was again put in the
bill, and the low comedian Frimbley became a huge favourite. Miss S.
Booth, granddaughter of the great Barton Booth scored a notable success
as Rosalind, and Corbett Ryder was induced to stop at Dundee and give a
revival of Rob Roy prior to his Aberdeen engagement.
Guy Mannering was played for a short run in
January, 1827, with the popular Scottish vocalist, Melrose, as the star.
Lara, a new play written by Bass, which was afterwards performed at
Drury Lane, was "tried out" at Dundee.
Bass considered his prospects in Dundee good
enough to risk taking up the lease of the Perth Theatre. With a return
visit of Rob Roy, Pritchard and Mackay being in the cast, and a visit
from the renowned Knyvett, Vaughan, and Bellamy concert party, the Bass
season ended in February.
Vandenhoff, the elder, tried a five nights'
"stand" in March, 1828, but played to empty houses, and even T. P.
Cooke, the model exponent of the British tar, who succeeded him, met
with little better success.
A new notion for Dundee was tried when they
re-opened on 28th October, Thursdays being advertised as fashionable
subscription nights. Rob Roy again came as the initial performance, with
Mackay as the Bailie and Miss Noel as Diana Vernon.
The next year (1829) Bass took up a five
years' lease, and re-opened the Iegitimate business on November 23.
Among the features of that season were the introduction of Lloyd, "a
little conjuror," according to a Dundee critic, "with the blended powers
of Liston and William Murray," and Vandenhoff and Miss Jarman, who had
played Desdemona to the Othello of Edmund Kean.
The great Braham proved the piece de
resistance of the season, appearing in February for five nights in Guy
Mannering, The Slave, The Siege of Belgrade, and The Duenna.
Plucky as he had been, Bass was compelled to
face the inevitable in 1830, when, finding himself in money troubles, he
started to economise, with the usual result. The regular drama declined.
One night in November, 1830, they presented Master David Bell, aged
thirteen, a native prodigy, who seems to have acquitted himself very
creditably in the part of Young Norval.
The proprietors of the theatre tried their
luck with a stock company in the following year (1831), when the leading
lady was Miss Estcourt Wells, but the experiment proved a failure. In
the three years that followed, the Royal stage harboured a few
miscellaneous entertainments, including "Yates' Reminiscences" by Yates,
the father of the late Edmund Yates of The World.
Incidentally, Paganini should have appeared
at the Royal, but a dispute between Bass, the lessee, and the
proprietors, had the effect of transferring his two evening concerts to
another place in the town.
The next lessee of the Royal, Mr. W.
Burroughs, brought Henry Johnston, Eliza Paton, and a good company to
the theatre on December 31st, and subsequently produced the first
regular pantomime in Dundee—all to no purpose, the people preferred
Ord's Circus, then performing in The Meadows.
The visit of Charles Kean, supported by the
great Mackay, for three nights beginning February 17, 1835, failed to
draw, and the theatre had to he closed in March.
Burroughs ought to go down to history as a
public benefactor, for his company included a painstaking actor called
Samuel Phelps, who was afterwards to become famous, and who owed his
success in the big parts of James VI. and Sir Pertinax MacSycophant to
the command of the Scots dialect lie had acquired in the Dundee Theatre.
Two years later, he made his debut as Shylock at the London Haymarket.
For nearly two years Dundee stage history
had been a blank, when Thomas Ryder opened up a season in November,
1837, under the direction of his father, Corbett Ryder, when they were
favoured with unusually good business. A second season in the September
of 1838 brought attractions like the Misses Smith, vocalists, Paumier,
the tragedian, Madame Chevallier, the ballet dancer, and the great
Mackay. It is worth recording that some Dundonians believed enough in
the play to attempt the erection of a new theatre, but the proposed
issue of £5 shares failed to mature.
Sheridan Knowles, supported by Miss
Elphinstone and the Aberdeen company, reopened the Theatre Royal for a
seven-night season, apparently with success, for Thomas Ryder again
ventured a season in November and December.
It was at the Thistle Hall that Ira Alridge,
the African Roscius, elected to appear in March, (840, in the role of
Othello, without make-up. Aldridge, the descendant of a West African
prince, was educated in New York for the church, but as the "colour
line" affected his success in America, he migrated to this side, and
made a good many successful British tours. Besides Othello, his
favourite parts included Shylock and Macbeth.
A rival to the Theatre Royal lessee appeared
in the person of Langley, who opened up the Thistle Hall as a theatre in
later, Ryder brought his company, along to the Royal, with Mr. and Mrs.
Crisp and Mr. and Mrs. Power in leading parts. Then followed a
competition for audiences and a division of the already scant
possibilities among Dundee theatre-goers. The Royal presented C. D. Pitt
and the Irish comedian Daly, when the Thistle was offering as attraction
that erratic genius, Gustavus Vaughan Brooke. Brooke's appearance was
announced as for six tights, "previous to his engagement with Mr.
Macready at Drury Lane." An accident in the duel scene of Richard III.,
at the Dundee performance, laid him up for some weeks.
Courlay, regarded as "the best Bailie bar
Mackay," was engaged to appear at the Royal as the "Dancing Scotsman,"
after which the Thistle closed its doors.
The Royal followed suit a few weeks later in
who had been in Ryder's company, did not give up Dundee as hopeless, for
the Yeaman Shore Theatre having been again refitted, he brought a stock
company there in the spring of 1842, with Mrs. Greig (Miss Maria Tyrer)
as the leading lady.
Among the extra attractions offered was a
performance by Gouffe, the famous man monkey, who appeared in Langley's
great Christmas spectacle. Still misfortune followed Langley's
footsteps, and the Yeaman Shore Theatre had to be closed.
In March, 1843, J. Daly opened the Castle
Street house, and although he brought an exceedingly strong stock
company, including Johnston, Brooke, Gouffe, Lloyd, and Mrs. Leigh, he
lost heavily, and three months later we find him figuring as the lessee
of the Dumfries Theatre.
Hope, evidently, springs eternal mostly and
chiefly in the breasts of mummers, for Langley again turned up at the
Yeaman Shore Theatre, re-opening in the spring of 1844, and subsequently
introducing Helen Faucit to Dundee playgoers. For twelve months both
Dundee theatres stood without a tenant, till Langley made another trial
in March, 1845, but poor business was his saddening experience.
The drama in Dundee then literally went to
the dogs, for, in November of this year, we find Henry Smith occupying
the stage with his dogs, Bruin and Hofer. This was an echo of the
dog-drama craze in London, which started at the Royal Circus there,
where a play had been expressly written to display their talents. Even
Drury Lane had its dog-drama and managed to save Sheridan from
bankruptcy, when Kemble and Siddons had failed to draw the town.
On February 3rd, 1846, one of the stock
company, Ellenden, took his benefit, the lessee presenting Ellenden's
new drama, Grizzel Iamphray, the last of the Witches; or, The Sea
Captain of Dundee, with a full complement of local scenery.
A novelty in quintuple representation was
introduced on the 23rd of June, when the part of Richard III. was
sustained by five actors in succession. Langley took the first act,
Coleman the second, Murray the third, Ellenden the fourth, and Tom
Powrie, then a youngster, the fifth act. The farce was Do You ever Take
your Wife to Broughty Ferry? evidently a localised version of Did You
ever Take your Wife to Camberwell Green?
Mr. and Mrs. Pollock were afterwards
engaged, the latter a favourite at the Old Aberdeen Theatre Royal, and
formerly the wife of Corbett Ryder.
December saw the stage given over to
Professor Heller and his troupe in "Les Poses Plastiques," and then came
the Aldridge family including Miss Aldridge, the tight-rope walker.
This was the last season of the Yeaman Shore
Theatre. It is rendered notable by the fact that it presented to the
public two famous figures in Scottish dramatic history, Tom Powrie and
Powrie was born in Dundee on 28th February, 1824, and from his earliest
days had been stage struck, holding his first performances in a stable
in Tay Street, where, with his own company of juvenile actors, he used
to enact the stirring melodrama, M`Glashan.
The starting price was three pins a head;
when the actors had acquired some real properties, such as "red paint"
and a real sword, the price of admission had to be increased.
Miss Helen Faucit, supported by Mr. Adam's
company, appeared at the Theatre Royal as Juliet to the Romeo of Barry
Sullivan, on 31st May, 1845. The Wizard Professor Anderson gave a series
of entertainments in December, and the theatre remained closed for many
months. As we do not propose to follow up its theatrical progress
further, we must take a reluctant leave of Dundee, with a word of
commendation to the long line of playgoers who have made it possible to
maintain therein the stage traditions.
Just one reference may be permitted to a
minor house, evidently a wooden booth which, was set up in the Meadows,
and rejoiced in the name of the Royal Victoria Theatre. The proprietor
and manager was dubbed "Wee Scott," and he managed to wile some of the
Yearnan Shore company to his establishment. EIlenden, Mr. and Mrs.
M`Gregor were of the company, and the leading lady was Mrs. Dunsmore.
Apparently, Wee Scott was the pioneer of the two-houses-nightly theatre
principle, for this was the special feature of his management, as well
as popular prices, which, in contemplating modern theatre changes,
simply emphasises the, proverb, "The more a thing changes, the more it
is the same."