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The Story of the Scots Stage
Chapter IX - Perth Dramatic Records


PERTH makes its demand for notice to the stage-historian as the Scottish city which, from its earliest days, has stubbornly upheld the claims of Drama to its part in the mental equipment of the perfect citizen. For the moment, those advocates who ask for a folk-drama, which shall express either the soul of a nation or the spirit of the folk, must perforce hold their peace. But when the time is ripe for further propaganda, they might take note how much Perth did, not only to further dramatic art, but to support that furtive growth, the Scots Drama. The fact, that it was a complete and self-contained community of intensive culture, may account for that good-fellowship which its fostering of the dramatic art drew forth. Such a consideration should not by any means derogate from the claim that commerce had not in any way made this art. callous to the demand of the spirit—a trait which the author regrets seems to be absent in the dramatic history of other Scottish towns—too sorely holden down with religious superstitions. At any rate, Perth, judging from its records, seems from the beginning to have been kindly disposed to the mummer and have taken him readily to its bosom. What successive theatrical managers addressed as "the nobility, gentry, and inhabitants of Perth and its vicinity" were enthusiastic playgoers in the days when Perth was a county town in the fullest sense of the word. There was no railway—five public coaches provided the links between Edinburgh and Aberdeen; Perth and Edinburgh; Perth and Glasgow; Perth and Inverness; and between Perth and Aberdeen via Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose, and the coast. There were many social societies who made public visits en masse to the theatre, and more than any other city the officials of Perth patronised the theatre. Perth indeed fulfilled its duty to the fullest in helping dramatic art along at a period when its followers were regarded as the Ishmaels of Society. Those who are fortunate enough to happen upon Peter Baxter's illuminating volume, The Drama in Perth, have in store a rich fund of theatre-ania from which to construct a more detailed account of the Perth Stage than the scope of the present book warrants.

Perth holds its own early records of the performances of Mysteries and Moralities, one of the most favoured mystery-plays in Perth being Corpus Christi. The guisards in Perth went about on the last night of the year asking for "cans," and we have also stories of the presentation of Robin Hood, Little John, Queen of May, and the other historic pastimes referred to in previous chapters. It was after playing as "Prince of the Revels" that the Duke of Rothesay incurred the displeasure of his father, King Robert III., when he was banished to Falkland Palace. Sir David Lyndsay's Satire was performed outside the walls of the city, in the amphitheatre of St. Johnstoun, in 1535, before a vast audience, which included James V.

The Perth Kirk Session had to warn its people against play-acting in 1574. Such ungodly plays, they said, boded no good to the people, as witness when the Perth bakers celebrated their annual festival in 158 by performing Saint Obert's Play, the Kirk Session issued an "act against idolatrous and superstitious pastimes, especially against the Saint Obert's Play." Eight years later, the Church dignitaries must have grown more tolerant, for, when a company of players applied for a license to the Consistory of the Church, it was granted, subject to the condition that it contained no swearing, etc. The Session Records do not provide the name of the company of players, but they may have been those of the Earl of Leicester, the Earl of Warwick, or the Lord. Chamberlain's company, with which Shakespeare was associated.

When King James, in 1606, held his Red Parliament at Perth, a kind of pastoral play, or more properly a Coliseum spectacle, was enacted on the South Inch between the followers of the Earls of Eglinton and Glencairn. After a four hours bloody fight, "the Town rose in arms and separated the combatants " and presumably performed the ambulance rites.

In 1631, Perth honoured the visit of Charles I. by presenting a pageant, one of the features of which was a sword dance performed, by thirteen dancers, upon a floating platform moored alongside the Tay, opposite Gowrie House.

Abundant evidence of thefondness of its citizens for the play is afforded in the records of the Perth Grammar School. The Council of Perth paid to Patrick Rynd, minister of Dron, on 1st August, 1616, the sum of 20 merks for constructing a play which was probably acted by the scholars. On the Tuesday after Candlemas, 1734, the pupils performed Cato before an audience of "300 ladies and gentlemen," and the presentation was evidently under public auspices, for we are told that afterwards "the, Magistrates entertained the gentlemen at a tavern." The following year, although the Kirk Session signified to the Master of the Grammar School that "the said tragedy gives offence," the Master put on two performances of George Barnwell, the Idle Apprentice, before large and distinguished audiences.

The traces of the professional drama in Perth do not make themselves sufficiently clear until the latter part of the eighteenth century, although it would appear that strolling companies visited Perth in the seventeenth century. If so, they must have had to content themselves with a portable building, for it is not till 1780 that we find they could literally obtain houseroom. In this year, it is stated, a company of players opened up in "a flat of one of these houses, a little below the North Secession Meeting House," on the north side of High Street, and played a three-night-weekly programme. As the drawings could not have amounted to more than 40s. a night, it can only be hoped the "company" was small.

The chronicler of the period says "their personal appearance was the shabby genteel in the true sense of the word." On that amount of wealth it would be. After this the Old Guild Hall seemed to have given harbour to the players, but, evidently, the officials were not proud of their tenants, for neither the name of the companies nor the plays are mentioned. Simple statements are given of payments for a week or so many nights, one writer describing the tenants as of a "tag-rag description." Still the mummers must be grateful—the old Guild Hall provided a home for the Drama prior to 1785, upon which date we gather that the building of the Glovers' Hall in George Street gave haven to "the Edinburgh company who came over to Perth." The Glovers' Hall was built in 1786, and subsequently fitted temporarily as a theatre, with pit and gallery, but no boxes. Here Sutherland's Edinburgh company appeared several times. Unluckily, the personnel of the various companies and the programmes presented are not available.

The Perth Glovers' Incorporation books record one entry which is of interest (April 22nd, 1788):

"The Deacon informed the Incorporation that a party of Players purposed taking the new Hall from week to week after Whit Sunday next, at the rent of two pounds stg., weekly, payable each Monday, and to pay any damage that may be done."

As the Incorporation failed to record the names of the companies, we are left to conjecture whether it was Sutherland's company, or that of Moss and Bell, who were the first to run a, stock company in the Glovers' Hall Theatre. The first indication in the city records of the' plays produced there is the announcement, in 1792, of an original play, The Siege of Perth, or Sir William Wallace, by A. MacLaren of Perth, under the direction of Sutherland. The play was published later in book form, and included the favourite ballad, "Macgregor Aruaro." Beaumont followed Moss and Bell as the next tenant, and was allowed to sub-let to Trueman and MacGregor of the Edinburgh Theatre Royal, at a rent of £75 per annum.

The records concerning the companies and players are so scanty that no complete details can be gathered until 16th August, 1809, when Trueman and MacGregor announced on that date the opening of their season with the performance of "A Favourite Comedy and a Musical Entertainment by the Edinburgh Company of Comedians." Cooke, the well-known actor, "starred" for six nights, beginning 22nd August, when he appeared in the roles of Shylock and Sir Pertinax MacSycophant. Fawcett, the comedian, from Covent Garden, followed him, appearing in Colman's comedies, The Poor Gentlemnan, John Bull, and The Heir at Law, as well as The Road to Ruin and The Blind Bargain. O'Keefe's opera, The Castle of Andalusia (from Gil Bias), was performed on September 1st, the entertainment concluding with a pantomime sketch, The Deserter of Naples. On September 6th, Rock, the comedian, appeared as Sir Peter Teazle in The School for Scandal, and during his two weeks' engagement was seen in The Rivals and other Sheridan plays, as well as the pantomime of Cinderella.

Versatility was a jewel in those days of mixed programmes, just as it is to-day, when we are suffering from a surfeit of Revues. Fawcett, to whom we have just referred, could and did sing in opera, as well as in burletta. The Beggar's Opera seems to have been performed for the first time in Perth on September 29th. The season ended with a series of benefit nights numerous enough to indicate how large and representative a display of talents the Edinburgh comedians could boast. Just as the Perth public were being won for the theatre, came the great disaster. Sutherland's company were one night performing Macbeth to an over-crowded house. Macbeth was pent on his soliloquy, "This is a sorry sight," when a sudden rending of wood was heard, the supports of the gallery gave way, and the occupants carne down with a dreadful crash on to the floor beneath. The house held three hundred normally. With the pressure and consternation that arose, a scene of indescribable confusion followed. Men and women crawled out from the broken rafters and debris, and, although there were three entrances, only one exit was available. To this the crowd rushed and a panic ensued. Although a good many casualties resulted, no one was killed. But the event served to close the career of the Glovers' Hall Theatre.

The Drama was not long without a home. When the Perth Grammar School, which dated from about the fifteenth century, became vacant, an effort was made to fit up the building as a playhouse, and on 2nd May, 1810, the St. Anne's Lane Theatre, officially known as the New Theatre, Grammar School, Perth, commenced its nine-year dramatic career by announcing the appearance of Mrs. Glover, from the Covent Garden Theatre, in Colman's comedy, The Jealous Wife, supported by Tayleur as Sir Harry Beagle. Mrs. Glover appeared for four nights, performing also in Wives as They Were; reciting Collin's "Ode to the Passions"; and playing in the farces, Animal Magnetism; The Way to Keep Him; The Provoked Husband; and The Citizen. The opening season was not auspicious, a contemporary playgoer recording that he was mortified by the thinness of the "houses." Evidently the Glovers' Hall accident was too fresh in the public memory to entice a larger audience. The following week brought a new programme, including the new drama, The African, Romeo and Juliet, and Mary Queen of Scots. It must not be forgotten that it was summer-time, and, the long "fore-nichts" were against theatregoing, so, after a few scratch performances of "the legitimate" and variety shows, including. Signor Belzoni in "Feats of Strength" and Tunes on the musical glasses, and Herman Boaz's Thaumaturgical Exhibitions and Magical Deceptions, the theatre did not re-open until the autumn season.

Morton's comedy, A Cure for the Heartache and the farce, Raising the Wind constituted the opening bill. Hunt Week at Perth gave the theatre a chance to redeem itself. On two successive days after the public dinner, most of the gentlemen, and many of the ladies, visited the theatre in St. Anne's Lane, and proceeded after to the dance, where the famous fiddler, Neil Gow, led his select little orchestra. Under the patronage of the Duchess of Atholl, there, was a special night on October 4th, when the opera, Love in a Village, was presented, followed later in the week by Home's Douglas, and then by a performance of The Beggar's Opera. The pantomime, The Magic Cave, or The Harlequin in Scotland, was given during the same week, so that Perth had quite a mixed dish in the way of dramatic fare.

The first appearance in Perth of the son of Mrs. Siddons and her daughter-in-law was billed for the week commencing October 22nd, when Mr. and Mrs. Siddons appeared for four nights in Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet (twice), and As You Like It, the latter part of the programme being devoted to various farces in which Mrs. Siddons appeared. For their benefit night on the Friday, the Siddons appeared in Henry Siddons' play, Time's a Tell Tale. It is worth noting here that the "stars" of these days were supposed not only to be versatile histriones but capable dramatists, a remark to which the dramatic cynic will retort by stating that the modern actor-manager may well claim the same qualification after he has laid violent hands on the work of his playwright. The strong man, already referred to, Signor Belzoni, seems to have been an actor, too, for on October 29 he was announced to appear in Macbeth.

The Napoleonic wars were now responsible for bad trade in Perth. The cloth merchants who sold the well-known Perth fabric became bankrupt, and the adage that "the theatre follows the bag" (money-bag) was confirmed by the absence in Perth of any theatrical companies during the next eighteen months. The Town Council, under date March 12, 1812, decided to buy the stage, seats, and appurtenances of the theatre for £6o and advertise the building for hire. Trueman rented it on a six months' lease, at a rent of £21, and ran a few shows. Subsequently the Town Council induced Mr. and Mrs. Siddons to take up a three years' lease at £60 per annum, but they did not open up till later, their first announcement reading, " The Theatre will open for Six weeks with the Edinburgh Company on May 10, 1813, with a 3 Act Comedy `The Child of Nature,' the part of Amanthis by Mme H. Siddons .whose health will not allow her the honour of appearing more than six evenings (luring the present season." The fare presented during this six-week season included the musical tragedy of Torn Thumb the Great, Master Mason, performed by a seven-year-old boy, who also introduced Braham's Bravura Song.

Venice Preserved, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, farce, pantomime, and various novelties, formed the rest of the season's programme. The Siddons sub-let the theatre to Henry Johnston on March 11, 1814, when that actor gave recitals from Cato, Henry IV., and Collin's "Ode to the Passions." The Siddons' lease ran an uneventful course, and there is no mention of other entertainments until October 17, when the comic opera, The Soldier's Return, was presented.

Corbett Ryder, the most notable manager of the Northern circuit, which then included Perth, Aberdeen, Montrose, Arbroath, and Dundee, was the next tenant to whom the Council let the St. Anne's Lane Theatre. Upon Ryder agreeing to accept a three-year lease at £50 yearly, the Council constructed a ventilating: roof. Ryder goes down to history as the most astute, kindly, and philanthropic manager in the records. He was first in all acts of charity, and realised to the fullest his responsibilities as a public entertainer. His stock company, re-opened the Perth house on May 12th, 1817, with an appropriately-named play, The Stranger, the entire proceeds of the performance being devoted to the relief of the labouring poor of Perth, although this public-spirited action was not without its critical Jonahs, who covertly attacked him in the press on the ground that he expected to receive twenty times as much from the public. Ryder very courteously replied that he had already assisted to raise £200 in other towns for a similar purpose. The fact that the entire proceeds of the first night amounted to £10 2s. is some indication of the holding capacity of the St. Anne's Lane house, the prices being—boxes, 3s.; pit, 2s.; and gallery, 1s. The commencing hour was 7.30, while half-price started at 9 o'clock. The first Ryder season was a short one, and included Richard III., Macbeth, Guy Mannering, the new tragedy Bertram, the new comedy Smiles and Tears, Pizarro, The Jealous Wife, and, on the concluding night, for Ryder's benefit, The Forest of Bondy, or the Dog of Monfargis, with the actor-manager's own trained dog in the title-role.

Prior to the opening of his second season on 18th May, 1818, the place had been redecorated and new scenery provided. For the initial performance, The School for Scandal was presented, with the famous Mackay as Sir Peter Teazle, Ryder as Charles Surface, Henry Johnston as Joseph, and Mrs. Ryder as Lady Teazle. Mackay showed his powers as a mimic the same evening by giving imitations of John Kemble in Lear, Hamlet, and Cato, Kean in Richard III., Shylock, and Macbeth, Munden in Polonius, Johnston in Archy M'Sarcasm, and Sinclair in the song of "Auld Lang Syne." The week beginning May 29, it was announced that "His Majesty's servants of the Theatre," as Ryder described his company, would enact Macbeth. The other Shakespearean revivals included Julius Caesar, King Henry IV., Othello, Hamlet, and As You Like It, while the novelty, of the season came in the shape of the new musical play, The Slave, specially mounted, and with new and appropriate scenery, dresses, and machinery.

The presentation in Perth of Rob Roy, with Mackay in his famous part as the Bailie, seems to have upset all Ryder's carefully ordered arrangements. Produced originally at Covent Garden Theatre on 12th March, 1818, the Sir Walter Scott novel (dramatised by the English playwright, Isaac Pocock) had already proved an obstinate success elsewhere. Three months later, it cropped up at Perth. On Monday, June 10, 1818, a prior Scottish performance had taken place at Glasgow, with W. H. Murray as the Bailie. Johnston appeared in the Perth production as Rob Roy, Mrs. Ryder as Diana Vernon, and Mrs. M'Namara as Helen Macgregor. A contemporary journalist, in speaking of its success, averred that "Mr. Johnston as Rob Roy would have appeared to better advantage had he been a little more conversant with the Scottish dialect." (This, to the son of an Edinburgh man!) It is evident that Ryder had little notion of the possibilities of Rob Roy as a draw, for he announced that it would be repeated on Friday night for "the third and last time." Before his season ended, the play had to be repeated for thirteen further performances, thus making the earliest Perth record of a "long run." Two of these were under the local patronage of Sir David Moncrieffe and the Perth Gaelic Society, respectively. The success of Rob Roy evidently troubled the Perth Grundyitcs of those days, for, in a letter to the Editor of a local newspaper, one correspondent complained that after the Saturday night's performance, some of the audience "returned home next morning roaring out like madmen, 'Rob Roy for ever,' instead of preparing for the duties of the succeeding day!"

In the interim, the noted actor, Booth, fulfilled a six nights' engagement at St. Anne's Lane, appearing in a repertoire which included Richard III. After a six weeks' closure, the theatre re-opened during the Perth Race Week, when Ryder presented as his " star" the London actor, Meggett, in the great musical attraction, The Slave. The Heart of Midloth/an seems to have been staged at Perth the next season, for under date August 6th, 1819, Mrs. Alsop, a London actress, is announced as appearing in the part of Jeanie Deans. Another Scott adaptation, Robert the Bruce, derived from The Lord of the Isles, was presented. The official close of the theatre was announced for 10th August, 1819, the occasion of Ryder's benefit, "by desire," and under the immediate patronage of the Lord Provost and Magistrates, when The Heir at Law and The Heart of Midlothian were presented to a bumper house. Save for a few irregular engagements, the theatre stood empty for three or four years, when an unexplained fire reduced the place to ruins. So ended the career of the Perth house, which had first given haven to the immortalised Rob Roy.

To Corbett Ryder, it was abundantly evident that the old theatre was an impossible house if lie desired to continue his policy of providing the best in Drama for his Perth friends. There were times, when a special engagement took place, that he was unable to cope with the crowd. Those who booked seats, as was the custom, sent their servants in advance to retain them till their arrival, and it was with difficulty; sometimes the servants could get out. Ryder conceived the idea of erecting a new theatre, and on 14th August, i8 i8, an appeal was made for subscribers. The proposal was taken up enthusiastically by influential citizens, and the concrete result was the erection of the Theatre Royal, Perth, situate at the junction of Atholl Street and Kinnoul Street, which was opened on 28th August, 1820. Again, as in the case of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Dundee, Kirk and Stage interchanged their amenities---the theatre was built on the foundation of the old Black-friars Monastery, actually upon the foundation walls—thus providing another version of the old hymn, "the stage's sure foundation," etc. Here is the opening play bill:-

The theatre accommodated five hundred, consisted of a pit, nine dress circle boxes, an upper gallery and two gallery boxes, where the musicians were placed, there being no orchestral dock in the stage front.

Macready, who was the opening "star," was then twenty-seven years of age, and in his first performance of Macbeth, he kept the audience "spell-bound from start to finish." The fortnight's engagement was a huge success. Miss Atkins was the daughter of Ryder's scene painter, and it was she who subsequently became Mrs. William Macready. The piquant details of the romance of the austere tragedian and the unsophisticated maid are fully set forth in Macready's Reminiscences. "My opportunities of conversation with this interesting creature," wrote Macready, "were very frequent, which, as they occurred, I grew less and less desirous of avoiding. Her strong sense and unaffected warmth of feeling received additional charm from the perfect artlessness with which she ventured her opinions. The interest with which I regarded her I persuaded myself was that of an older friend, and partook of a paternal character. All the advice my experience could give her in her professional studies she gratefully accepted and skilfully applied," and so forth. If William was so priggish at twenty-seven years of age—he must have been "gey ill" to live with. And yet they say the absence of a sense of humour is a Scots trait! Still Macready married the lass on 24th June, 1824, and they lived "happily ever afterwards."

For the week following this engagement, Ryder had booked Young of Covent Garden, who appeared for five nights in The Revenge, The Jealous Wife, and Hantlet. Ryder brought Mackay from Edinburgh to support him.

Sporadically during the succeeding months, the perennial Rob Roy appeared in the Theatre Royal bill, once under the patronage of the Stewards of the Perth Races, and again of that of the members of the local Gaelic Society, and always to crowded audiences. On 6th October the musical drama, Guy Mannering was produced by Ryder's company before an enthusiastic house, the company ending the entertainment with the musical farce, The Highland Reel. To Mackay, the manager allowed a special benefit at the end of the season, when Rob Roy was presented for "the 126th and last time."

The "star" chosen by Ryder to initiate his second year was Terry, the eminent comedian, famous then for his Sir Peter Teazle. Terry, appeared in The School for Scandal on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday to allow of other towns witnessing the famous actor. Macbeth was chosen by Terry for his Friday, evening's bill, when he also appeared in The. Critic, as an after-piece, and during the following week he assumed the role of Dominic Sampson in Guy Mannering. Terry was not a financial success—evidently his excellent work in London was not properly known. The Theatre Royal's first grand pantomime, The Forty Thieves, was produced on 12th January, 1821, being preceded by the tragedy, Brutus: or the Fall of Tarquin. To those who consider the amusement of the bairns was neglected in the old days, it will be of interest to note that the pantomime was repeated "For the Benefit of the Juveniles of Perth" on Wednesday, 31st January, and was followed by Tam o' Shanter and His Mare Meg. A production of Henry VIII. met with a great reception, and had to be repeated the following night. Sir Walter Scott's new play, The Antiquary, was staged on February 19th. Ryder chose Henry IV. as his benefit piece, appearing himself in the part of Falstaff. In his absence, the theatre harboured a good many varied entertainments; concerts; a grand panorama, "The Bombardment of Algiers"; the three celebrated vocalists, Miss Wilson, Mr. Horn, and Mr. Welsh, in the comic opera, Love in a Village; and it was not until September that the theatre resumed its regular programme of plays, when Talbot, the well-known player, opened up in Sheridan's Pizarro, appearing subsequently in The Orphan of Geneva, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Suspicious Husband, The Clandestine Husband, and sundry other favourite pieces of the period. Talbot was regarded as an excellent actor, polished in manner, and with a good many, natural graces. The staging of Hallowe'en, or Vampire and Water Kelpie deserves mention on account of the special scenery that had been prepared, and the care that was exercised in weaving the national airs into the thread of the story. Ryder finished up his season in November, and, finding business so good at his Aberdeen Theatre, did not return until 12th March, 1822. In his absence, several variety performances occupied the stage, among others Chalon, the Illusionist; and an Indian juggler; O'Brian, the Irish Giant, 7 feet, 9 inches; Mrs. Cook, giantess, 7 feet; and the Yorkshire Little Man, 30 inches high.

The next item of importance was the first appearance of Kean in Perth Theatre Royal, where he opened up in Richard Ill. Owing to the great expense incurred, prices were advanced to 5s., 3s., and gallery 2s., and no halftime price allowed. Evidently the "raising" had its effect on the attendance, for Kean played to rather sparse audiences on the first three nights. Thursday night found a crowded house —the fame of his acting had spread. With characteristic caution, the Scots "gods" had decided that Kean was worth "the extra shilling." The effect of his Othello upon the audience was electrical, and roused them to the highest pitch of enthusiasm. Magnificent houses followed on Friday and Saturday evening to witness his Sir Giles Overreach and King Lear.

Theatre-goers who lately have witnessed in the Revues the novelty of actors and actresses acting from the auditorium will be surprised to learn that Ryder's company produced a comic interlude before the curtain, in October, 1822, when the lessee took the part of the manager and the characters appearing in the "house" included Sir Geoffrey Lounge (a gent in the boxes), Terence O'Bog (an Irishman in the pit), Sandy M'Craw (a Scotchman in the gallery), and Joe Clod (fra' Yorkshire, also in the gallery).

Hitherto, Rob Roy was regarded as having only three principal roles. It was left to the famous Miss Stephens and Mr. Leoni Lee to make Diana Vernon and Francis Osbaldistone outstanding parts, and place the famous solos and duets in their right relationship with the play. According to the reports of the audience of that date, the encomiums passed upon the singing of these two were exceptionally laudatory. The Perthshire County families made the occasion of Stephens-Lee visit quite an "Opera" function. Love in a Village and The Beggar's Opera were produced, and Miss Stephens scored a distinct success also in Guy Mannering.

The appearance of the Edinburgh Caledonian Theatre company proved the beginning of the end of Ryder's connection with Perth, for a year or two. An excellent round of plays was given, including the new drama, George Leriol, or The Fortunes of Nigel. One critic condemned this piece because "no sooner did one character appear and make himself known than he was withdrawn to allow of another to come on the stage." Bothwell Brig proved the favourite play during the Perth Race Week, and threatened temporarily to out-rival Rob Roy. During the theatrical recess, Catalini, the famous Italian vocalist, appeared at the Royal before large but select audiences---the admission was half-aguinea. Ryder gave his farewell night to Perth on December 25th, 1824, and how keenly his old friends felt his forsaking of them is evinced• by a local historian : —

"Mr. Ryder opened the New Theatre in the close of 1820 and succeeded amazingly, for five years. But success made him ambitious, and, leasing the Caledonian Theatre (formerly Corn's Rooms) of Edinburgh, in opposition to the Theatre Royal, he found it a ruinous speculation from which he never recovered."

The next tenants of the Theatre Royal came in the persons of Jones, and Mackay—the famous Bailie—who performed on the opening night. In the language of our informant, the theatre was " opened with gas," thus displacing wax, as wax had previously displaced oil for lighting purposes. The company of Edinburgh comedians started operations on 22nd August, 1825, with Laugh When You Can and Raising the Wind, titles which bore significant meanings. As most of the players were Perth favourites, good business was the order of the day, and an additional attraction was the revival of the old "half-time" arrangements. Among the pieces staged by Jones and 'Mackay were Mary Stuart (founded on The Abbot) and Waverley, the latter a failure. Jones opened up his second season single-handed in August, 1826, and brought most of the leading performers from the Edinburgh Theatre Royal, including Mrs. Stanley as leading lady and Stanley as his leading comedian. Terry starred in The Devil and Dr. Faustus, and, for an Englishman, he tried the doubtful experiment of playing the Bailie in Rob Roy, although it is satisfactory to hear that he was "no' bad for an Englishman." Crainond Brig proved a favourite, with Pritchard as an ideal James VI.; and Miss Murray, as 'Marion Howe, "scored heavily." The famous Miss Noel, the vocalist, from Drury Lane and Covent Garden, gained high praise in such parts as Rosetta, Rosina, Amcetta, and Diana Vernon. The Gowrie Conspiracy, a new play of local import, was produced by Jones, who closed a highly successful season on the 7th October with a performance of The School for Scandal, in which he had secured the special services of Mrs. Henry Siddons as Lady Teazle. At the end of this third season, Jones announced in his valedictory speech that he had relinquished his management for two reasons—the unfavourable period of the season at which only he could visit Perth —and the fact that he could not undertake the financial responsibility of attracting London stars."

Mr. C. Bass, of the Dundee Theatre, next took up the reins of management, and remembering the theatrical proverb, "when in doubt play Rob Roy," his inaugural performance consisted of Perth's favourite piece, in which he was successful in obtaining the assistance of Mackay. Bass himself played the outlaw, and Mrs. Bass, Diana Vernon. An enthusiastic and crowded audience gave a splendid start-off for the season, and as the lessee had engaged a carefully selected stock company, which included Pritchard, an old favourite, the Misses Julia, Mrs. Nicol, Mrs. Power, Mr. and Mrs. Tyrer, Taylor, and a fairly large and capable orchestra, success was assured. The last precaution was necessary, as the stock companies were now supposed to add opera to their repertoire, and the current craze for melodrama also demanded a good deal of incidental "fiddling." When Bass re-opened in the following January, he chose Macbeth, giving a good, sound interpretation of the part. The incidental music to Macbeth had, it was said, never been so finely rendered in the town.

Succeeding programmes during the next few months were devoted to the ordinary "mixture as before" of drama, melodrama, farce, and the houses were accordingly thin. To make matters worse, a private house, known as the Minor Theatre, was doing business in a dilapidated building in Canal Street, and helped to take away some of the playgoers who affected this "penny gaff." Its career was summarily ended by a police-court prosecution, which saw the last of the "Barn Stormers." Still, theatrical business was generally very bad throughout the kingdom in 1828, and Bass had his fair share, poor as that was. In March the actor-manager secured Vandenhoff for a four-night engagement in Coriolanus, Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Coriolanus was regarded as Vandenhoff's masterpiece, but he played only to indifferent audiences in Perth. A month later, T. P. Cooke came along to present his nautical dramas, and his opening audience consisted of "fifteen people, in the pit." It was on 23rd September that Bass had the honour of producing his version of The Fair Maid of Perth, five months after the London publication of Scott's novel. An overflowing audience applauded the drama, and the piece ran for nine nights. Scott's then recent drama, The Two Drovers, was staged during the Hunt Race Week.

When Bass re-opened the Theatre Royal in February, 1829, he decided to give the citizens an opportunity of hearing the "stars" he had brought to his Dundee house. These included Mademoiselle Rosier, the London danseuse, and Amherst, the pantomimist, from Covent Garden, in The Dumb Girl of Genoa, a piece revived in 1916 for film-work under the name of The Dumb Girl of Portico, with Mme. Pavlova in the name-part. About this time Bass gave Perth a rest from his labours—his seasons became less frequent-----the Caledonian Theatre, Edinburgh, was occupying his attention. In January, 1830, he brought the London actress, Miss Jarman, to Perth, and arranged her appearance in Romeo and Juliet and The Soldier's Daughter. Vandenhoff was another visitor; and in February the celebrated Braham performed for three nights in The Devil's Bridge, Duenna, and The Waterman. The audiences were only moderate—advanced prices and the evangelical revival were put down as the reason why, but the most probable cause seemed to be the poor quality of the stock players. At any rate, Bass now dropped his tenancy. Hooper's Touring Company is recorded as occupying the boards of the Royal for a week, in comedy and musical farce, but we cannot trace what they performed.

Mr. Jones, courageous as ever, gave Perth another trial, opening up with an excellent company, who appeared in Wild Oats on 2nd July, 1830. It may here be noted that Perth was evidently regarded by the Edinburgh managers as a stop-gap, otherwise they would hardly have chosen the theatrical dog-days in which to run a normal season. It speaks volumes for the theatrical enthusiasm of Perth playgoers that in the hottest days of the year they were prepared to support the Drama. To Manager Jones remains the credit of giving John Wilson, the great Scottish tenor, the opportunity to qualify himself for his future operatic work. Wilson, from a position at the composing case in a printer's office, by dint of hard work, had been able to secure the precentor's post at St. Mary's Parish Church, Edinburgh. Then he decided to devote himself to the stage, and, having met with success in the first performance of Guy Mannering, he decided that the best way to qualify himself for the position of operatic star was to undergo the excellent histrionic training that could be, obtained in the repertoire of a stock company. His subsequent success in London and the English provinces proved the wisdom of his judgment, although it cannot be said that he was ever a notable actor. Still, his patient study of acting and singing finally gained for him the reputation of being the greatest vocalist that Scotland had given to the stage for fifty years. In fine, he was the Durward Lely of his day. The audiences were pretty sparse at the opening nights of the Jones Stock Company shows. But soon the fame of Wilson's singing brought the crowds along, and, as Jones had also engaged that excellent vocalist, Miss Tunstall, there was a double reason for play-going. Jones himself will chiefly be remembered for his exquisite performance of Lord Ogleby in Tice Clandestine Marriage, in which part the London press said he challenged comparison with Farren. Romeo and Juliet and The Beggar's Opera gave Wilson a chance of appearing in standard parts, in which he acquitted himself admirably. It was on 12th September, 1830, that John Wilson chose to give his "extra" benefit and say farewell to Perth Theatre Royal, where he had submitted himself to so strenuous an apprenticeship. In The Devil's Bridge he took the part of Count Belino, followed by the farce, Matrimony, and the musical sketch, The Festival of Apollo. The tenors of that day were decidedly more Trojan than the contemporary product. Here are a few of the songs sung at his benefit: solo from Weber's Der Freischutz, "The Picture Songs," "The Flowers of the Forest," "The Minstrel Boy," duct in Beri a mo tutti tro, and "The Bay of Biscay," in addition to his sustaining principal solos in the three plays mentioned.

With the year 1830, the passion for theatricals began to show a steady decline. There were many reasons adduced for this, the favourite, among others, being that immemorial one, the decay of Drama. As this complaint is fairly familiar to every student of dramatic history, recurring as it does every thirty or odd years in the critical documents of dramatic literature throughout Europe, it would be futile work to examine the evidence. The more probable reason was the change in the political outlook. Perth, like other Scottish cities, was beginning to feel its electoral feet. It was the period of gestation prior to the birth of the Reform Bill of 1832. Perth had its amateur politicians too, and with such a live subject as universal suffrage to discuss in its leisure hours, it would be unnatural to think a Scot could find much to interest in the fustian make-believe of play-acting. And theatrical managers were beginning to find that the Perth folk were "kittle kattle" to please. Still, Ryder returned for a season in 1830, opening up during the Race Week, when he introduced his son, Thomas Ryder, a promising comedian, who played Dougal in Rob Roy. During their stay, the company appeared in tragedy, melodrama, and comedy. When he played another season, which commenced on May 2nd, 1831, Ryder brought over a strong company from Aberdeen, and chose the opera, The Marriage of Figaro, as his opening item, in which he presented the well-known vocalist, Miss Estcourt Wells, who was supported by several other promising singers, in addition to the members of an excellent stock company. The operas of Guy Mannering and The Duenna were also submitted, but, despite all these attractions and a quite strong selection of tragedies and dramas, the houses were only fair—and not even "set fair." In October of the year, Crisp's Touring Company fulfilled a week's engagement at the Theatre Royal in the successful Adelphi melodrama, A Wreck on Shore, or a Bridegroom from the Sea.

The greatest event in the musical history of Perth to be recorded is the visit of 1'aganini on 8th November, 1831, when, although the prices had been raised more than trebly (boxes and pit 7s. 6d. and gallery 3s. 6d.), a packed house greeted him and accorded him a tumultuous reception. The following year was that of the cholera plague, and, save for an occasional concert, the theatre stood empty, and there seemed so little prospect of a tenant that it was proposed to sell the property, one gentleman making an offer of £600 for a building which originally cost £3,000.

Concerts and variety entertainments were the only and irregular bookings at the Royal during the succeeding years, one quaint programme announcing "Guiseppe Pariss from Regent Street, London," with his "Industrious Living Fleas," showing what "educated fleas" could do.

OId circus-goers will note with interest that Cooke's Royal Circus, in April of 1836, occupied an amphitheatre of ninety square feet, capable of accommodating 1,500 persons, at the south end of North Inch, and did very good business during its two months' stay, presenting, among pieces, characters, and sketches, Alexander the Great, Falstaff, Shylock the Jew, Richard III., Doncaster in miniature, etc. Wombwell's Grand National Menagerie and "greatest show on earth" paid Perth a week's visit, but the announcement read that it was "the last time the menagerie" would visit the north of Scotland, as it could not travel twenty miles without paying at least £10 for toll money, owing to the number of horses and waggons carried.

It was not till 27th September, 1836, that Ryder found courage to try Perth again, and when he did it was to re-open in Rob Roy for the 551st time. After a few weeks of playing, he reduced his prices, and in this way secured ample audiences. It was on November i8, 1836, that he announced his own benefit and last appearance in Perth in Rob Roy, when he was accorded a tremendous reception. To finish his Perth season with eclat, G. V. Brooke was engaged, and the young tragedian had the special support of Mrs. Newcombe, late leading actress at the Adelphi Theatre, Edinburgh. On this occasion he appeared in flan et, The Honeymoon, and William Tell.

Young Ryder opened the Theatre the Following year under his father's management, introducing Sinclair, the well-known vocalist, as a "star," in The Bogle of the Clyde, or The Bailie Bewitched. The repertoire was wide in scope and included Shakespearean tragedy, drama, farce, and pantomime, a special feature being its generous supply of Scottish drama.

When Sheridan Knowles and Miss Elphinstone were announced for a six nights' engagement, to commence 18th April, 1839, they had prepared a programme which included the new five-act play, The Maid Mariendorff, The Love Chase, The Hunchback, Woman's Wit, The Wrecker's Daughter, and William Tell. But although the performers in both cases bore high reputations, and it was considered that a greater dramatic treat had never been offered to Perth, the houses were not such as to encourage Ryder to incur further expensive engagements. It was urged, however, that this was hardly a fair test of the strength of Perth's playgoing enthusiasm, as the visit of the Circuit Court had provided a large proportion of the usual playgoers with a better thrill, in the form of criminal trials which often lasted well on into the night.

In the years that followed, Perth seems to, have turned its attention to music, for lack of a sufficiency of dramatic talent upon which to exercise its taste. Young Ryder seems to have thought that Perth was only worth risking financially for short seasons, and these he timed, during the next few years, to start during the Perth Race Week.

After noting a visit from the African Roscius, Ira Aldridge, in 1840, the re-appearance and farewell visit to Perth of Henry Johnston in 1841, there remains only to record a six-night visit by G. V. Brooke in his repertoire. The great Braham, now getting on in years, had strengthened his entertainment with the inclusion of his two sons, Charles and Hamilton Braham, and Perth was not slow to give them a rousing welcome when the family party came to the Theatre Royal on 16th March, 1844. More and more the musical enthusiasts found the theatre unfitted for concert work, and it was in 1845 steps were taken to erect the City Hall. So with the mention of the appearance of she whom Perth folks regarded as, "the greatest dramatic female star that ever walked the boards of Perth," this brief summary must end. Helen Faucit was engaged in lay, 1845, and played to crowded houses during her short visit, when she appeared in The Lady of Lyons, Romeo and Juliet, Otway's Belvidere, and The Hunchback.

In view of the statement with which this chapter opened, why, it may be asked, did Perth fall so badly from dramatic grace? The answer is simple. The playgoing instinct grows by what it feeds on. If you try to nurture it upon scraps administered at irregular intervals, the result will be the same as that in the human frame. It will dwindle away for lack of a sufficiency of nourishemnt. This is what happened to Perth, and had happened to so many other cities. With which moral, as all good Scottish books should have a moral, this volume must end.


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