Theatre Royal: The Romance of the Huddersfield Stage (1941) by Stanley Chadwick

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_ (with a complete record of the famous Wareing International Repertory Seasons)



With a Foreword by





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(with a complete record of the famous Wareing International Repertory Seasons)



With a Foreword by




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eM, i ie


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The Author desires to express his great indebtedness to the proprietors ofS he Huddersfield Examiner’’ for permission both to reprint and to use the type of the text of this booklet ; to the Committee of the Tolson Memorial Museum for reproduction of two photographs; and also to Mr. John Parker (Editor of ‘‘Who’s Who in the Theatre ’’), Councillor James R. Gregson,” Mr. W. D. Foster, and Mr. Charles

Macdona, for their help and information,

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Foreword She ee es erie aa, Vv I —Early Theatrical i he First | eg Theatre Royal’ ee ee eu i 5

: ATL The Hall Be Nae Bou te g

“TV.-Stage. Thrills and Fire | ie as eae ES V.—Opening of New Theatre Royal He eee ee 16 Corus ice: ele ‘eg Peer 27 oe —The Living Theatre ‘Triumphant CE 25 VITI.—An International Playhouse ae 3 a : BO Fight for Life 3 oe X.—The Huddersfield Thespians ... ee ark a 38

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I well recall the Philosophical Hall, which, as Mr. Chadwick reminds us, stood on the site of the present Theatre Royal. The Hall, too, was a theatre, for a theatre is, by derivation, simply a place for seeing. Thus I recall an exhibition at which we children —and at that time I feel sure many adults—were amazed that, an arrangement of mirrors, we were able to see through a brick, as well as to feel the snatch at our. muscles of -the galvanic battery.

Closing my eyes, I see myself as a red-headed boy of ten

_ years or so sitting in the Gallery, just above the platform (at the

end where the stage now is), listening to a speaker who/had been checked by my father in the ‘‘Examiner’’? on the score of in-


‘*T do know one thing,’’: said the speaker. ‘* William the Norman landed at Hastings in the year ten hundred and sixty.’’

en right,’’ called out the small boy. ‘‘ It was in

ten ey

The speaker turned and looked up.

“bine Be gentleman is right and | thank him for his

Cor rection.’

Polite as he was, however, he did not look too well pleased: I remember feeling swelled with pride and pleasure in being able to Bey my aes Whilst I was still a the Hall disappeared and the build-


ing that took its place was certainly ‘‘a place for seeing,’’ and also (as, unfortunately, a good many of those who “tread the boards’’ appear to forget) a place for hearing also. .. And for about sixty years, with intervals arising from causes clearly iIn- dicated in Mr. Chadwick’s carefully compiled history, it has con- tributed to the entertainment, serious and amusing, of genera-

tions of theatre—goers.

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The provincial theatre has usually to suffer from the com- petition of the large metropolitan theatre and the inevitably greater efficiency and magnificence of London productions. The limited site on which the Huddersfield Theatre Royal stands has

intensified this disparity. How often has one heard, when a

thing has been coming to our local theatre, in reply to an en- quiry, ‘‘No. I shall go to see it when I am in London.”’ Under- standable the attitude may be, but it indicates a certain lack of local patriotism, since a good theatre is indispensable to every truly civilised town, and a good theatre can be secured only by support of the good productions. After all, too, an intimate, cosy theatre has merits which compensate in a large degree for the potentialities of an auditorium where one cannot hear, and a distance where one can scarcely see.

I have, as it were, grown up with the Theatre Royal, have noted the various efforts to make Huddersfield people drama-wise and drama-loving (I have special reason for a particularly vivid remembrance of the Wareing regime); and I not only successfully produced comedies there, but have had three light operas to first see the light upon its stage. [For personal as well as public

reasons, therefore, | hope that the Theatre Royal will be the

means of developing a large drama—minded public in Hudders- field and the surrounding district, and also of supplying the public with the best available dramatic and operatic entertainment.

In congratulating Mr. Chadwick upon his well-documented history, I hope that it will prove a valuable aid in producing these desirable results. |


““ Langdale,’’ - Huddersfield, May, 1941.

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HE London theatre of the early nineteenth century was not the popular playhouse of “ pre-blitz ”’ days, while the development of the drama in the provinces was restric- ted by the stringent regulations of the Theatres Act of 1737 and 1788. Practically no reference has_ been made by local historians to the per- formance of stage plays in Hudders- field, and therefore the diamond jubi- lee of the present Theatre Royal is an appropriate moment to initiate this interesting survey. War-time measures for the safety of old files and documents have added to the difficulties of research. It is also a well-known fact that very often players who for a time have the whole country at their feet make their final exit in relative obscurity. Numerous biographies have been con- sulted to verify ‘‘ personal appear- ances”? of famous stage stars where local advertisements and reports have proved unreliable. The confusion ex- isting over the several theatrical es- tablishments in Ramsden Street has been the subject of careful inquiry, and every effort has been made to produce an accurate, complete and readable history.

Kirkgate Barn

The earliest local theatre of which record exists is ccntained in a day- bill presented tc the Tolson Memorial Museum, Ravensknowle, by Mr. J. T. Spratt in 1923. This bill is dated Wednesday, February 7, 1816, and announces a benefit performance for a certain Mr. Robinson in the “ New Theatre,’ which was _ “licensed according to Act of Parliament.” Actually this Theatre” was a large barn at the bottom of Old Post Office Yard, Kirkgate (rear of present tenement buildings).

Patrons of the theatre at least could not complain over the length and variety of the benefit pro- gramme. Mrs. Cowley’s comedy, “ A Bold Stroke For a Husband,’ was

_ performances.

the opening item, and was followed by a ballet entitled “The Scotch Ghost.” After the military band had played popular airs the curtain was rung down with the comic opera, “The Agreeable Surprise.” The per- formance commenced at 6-30 o’clock, and the prices of admission were: Boxes. 3s., pit 2s., and gallery 1s. The cast of the first play in- cluded three members cf one family (father, mother and son), while an actress named Mrs. Stanton is pre- sumed to have been the wife of the proprietor, John Stanton, a _ scene painter and artist of the ‘“ View of Huddersfield from Woodhouse, 1795.”

There is an interval of eleven years to the next day-bill of this

theatre, i.e., February 14, 1827. The

play presented was a comedy entitled “Paul Pry,” by John Poole, which had recently been produced at the Haymarket Theatre. A third day- bill for September 13, 1836, an- nounces performances of both comedy and melodrama.

New Public Hall

In 1833 a proposal was made to erect a public hall in the town at a cost of £5,000, for the purpose of meetings, concerts and theatrical The Riding School in Albion Street had up to this time been the only available public room, and here Catalani, the famous Italian opera singer, appeared at a concert,

and Sir W. E. Parry lectured on his

Arctic explorations. Occasional concerts and lectures were also given in the Infant Schoolroom, Spring Street, and in this building the newly- formed Huddersfield Choral Society

gave their first ‘‘Messiah” concert

on January 6, 1837. The summer exhibitions of the Huddersfield Horti- cultural Society took place either in the Court House or one of the manufacturers’ warehouses, while the ratepayers of the township used the Ramsden’s Arms Inn as a Council Chamber.

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It was finally left to the’ Hudders-

field Philosophical Society to under-

take the building of a public hall,-.—

and the first stone of the ‘“ Philoso- phical Hall” was laid by the president on May 14,-1836. The site selected was adjacent to the new Congregational Chapel in Ramsden Street, or ‘‘ Back Green” as it was then called. The building’ was de- layed a short time in consequence of the contractor’s refusal to complete it at the rate of the original contract. The cost of its erection was raised in shares of ten guineas each, the

Philosophical Society itself taking fifty shares. . The Huddersfield | Philosophical

Hall was opened under the patronage of Princess Victoria, the heir pre- sumptive to the throne, on May 24, 1837, the day on which she reached her legal majority, being then eighteen years old. Nearly. 300 persons were present at the dinner

held in honour of the Princess. The following day the hall was trans- formed into a conservatory by the

numerous exhibits of the Horticul- -

tural: Society.

First Town Hall

Built in the Grecian style cf archi- tecture, the building was 130 feet long by sixty-three feet wide, and comprised a large assembly room which together with the gallery and boxes provided seating accommoda- tion for about 1,280 persons. There was both a news room and reading room, while the library of the Philo- sophical Society contained’ upwards of 3,000 volumes, 3

The front portion of the building wag first used as an auction sale- room and art gallery, and, from 1859 until the incorporaticn of the borough, by the MHuddersfield Im- provement Commissioners as offices

and board room. The inauguration

of the Huddersfield Borough Council took place in this room on Septem- ber 7, 1868, together with the election of Charles H. Jones ag first Mayor. Subsequently this part of the Philo- sophical Hall became the Town Hall, and the meeting place of the Council

-Huddersfield’s was a barn.

until the erection of the present

Municipal Offices in 1878.

‘The Philosophical Hall does not enter into the theatrical history of the town until twenty-seven years after its opening, and when in 1864 it was converted into a regular theatre it did not assume the title of “Theatre Royal” for a further two years. Unfortunately this has not al- ways .been known by local writers, and in consequence false honours have on occasion been claimed for its stage.

The “ Circus Royal”

“The Leeds Times” for March 18, 1837, contains a report of a benefit performance. the ‘“ Hudders- field Theatre” on behalf of the fac- tory children. This building stood in Temple Street at the top of West- gate, the whole street being cleared

-for the construction of the railway

tunnel in 1846-47. It was known as the “ Circus Royal,” and such was its dilapidated state that one visiting cir- cus announced in its advertisements that the roof had been rendered im- pervious ‘to rain!, A Mr. Smedley was the proprietor in 1839, and the stock company in- cluded Mr. William Woolgar and his daughter from the York and Halifax Theatres, and Mr. L. S. Thompson, formerly proprietor of MBradford’s first permanent theatre, which like Shake- Speare’s plays were regularly on the bill, together with Sheridan’s ‘The School for Scandal ”’ and the comedies of James Sheridan Knowles. Even in those days complaint was made of the poor support accorded to the theatre by local people. :

The Woolgars were deservedly popular, for their acting was of a high order. Mr. Woolgar’s ‘“ Hamlet,” to quote a contemporary, was “ un- surpassed by any performer out of London,” and on the occasion of his departure from Huddersfield he was the guest of a number of gentlemen at a supper given in the Albion

Hotel. The benefit performance for Miss Woolgar was a_ “bumper,” the plays presented being


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An old


Iron Chest” and “The. Lady of Lyons.” Until 1845 the ‘Circus Royal”

staged a variety of attractions, from a wonderful machine for “Shaving by Steam” to a “ Baptismal for factory children, conducted by the ‘Rev. J. R. Stephens, a personal friend of Richard Oastler. The “ Shaving by Steam” machine was the invention of a clown for the first act of a new “laughable, comical, farcical and tragical’’ pantomime entitled “The Change Upon Change.” Other speci- alities in this pantomime included a ballet, a masquerade on horseback, a grand solo on the cornopian (early cornet) and an exhibition of weight- lifting. The “Baptismal Service” by the Rev. J. R. Stephens consisted of “christening ’’ one or two children “ ©O’Connor”’ (presumably after Fear- gus O’Connor, the Chartist leader), the ablutionary water being brought from a ‘Tom and Jerry Shop” opposite the theatre. The godfathers were made to promise and vow that the children should never be sent to a factory or a —— Sunday school.

There is a record of a place vf “recreation and amusement” in




Jircus Royal.’’

1842-43 existing in Manchester Street called ‘‘ The Britannia Music Saloon,” and of actors appearing from the Theatres Royal at Carlisle and New- castle-upon-Tyne. Two plays were given in 1843 on behalf of the Oastler Liberation Fund.

Several inns in the town had sing- ing-rooms attached to their premises, the largest being the Cambridge Arms in. Upperhead Row and the Argyle .in Manchester Road. Both the Cambridge and the Argyle later became music-halls with weekly change of programmes, while the Cambridge also presented comedies, and was in fact refused the renewal of its licence in 1869 in consequence of the performance of stage plays of an immoral character.

Versatility of Talent

The old circus in Temple Street was re-opened for the performance of the “legitimate drama” during Easter Week, 1845, in the words of the ad- vertisement ‘under the able man- agement of our esteemed favourite, Mr. Woolgar, from Theatres Royal, London and Paris, and the most tal- ented company believed ever trod boards in Huddersfield.”

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Mr. 'Woolgar, it is interesting to note, appeared in the cast of “ King Lear” on the occasion of Charles Macready’s farewell performance at the Haymarket Theatre on February 3, 1851. Miss Woolgar made her first appearance at the old Adelphi Thea-

tre in 1843, and later became the wife.

of the conductor, Mr. Alfred Mellon.

The new company made its debut with ‘ Othello”’ to an audience which this time filled the house to over- flowing. The thrilling interest of the play quickly made them forget about the delay in commencing due to the gas with which the theatre was sup- plied not taking light. The farce of “The Spectre Bridegroom ”’ which fol- lowed Shakespeare’s tragedy had the desired effect of canvulsing the house with laughter. ment was that no time was left for Miss Palmer to deliver her inaugural address, in consequence of the open- ing delay. The repertoire for the opening week certainly showed no lack of variety, and must have made heavy demands on the acting abilities of the

The only disappoint- —

company. Following ‘“ Othello,” per- formances were given of the plays hereunder: Tuesday.—Jane Shore and The Two Gregories. Wednesday.—George Barnwell and My Sister Kate.

Thursday.—William Tell and The Loan of a Lover. Friday.—The Iron Chest, with Bathing.

Saturday.—The Stranger, The Two Gregories and the Idiot Witness.

There were half prices to all parts of the house except the gallery.

The last notice of this theatre is dated May 31, 1845, and deplores a drop in patronage as a result of the condition of the building and the un- favourable weather. The “Circus Royal” day-bill announcing the

“Shaving by Steam” machine has been preserved in the former concert room of a local inn. It ig very un- fortunate that so few details are known about this remarkable old- time place of amusement.

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demolition of the old “ Circus Royal” in Temple Street left the town without a permanent theatre, but a move was quickly made to build a new Riding School which could also be used as a place ot public entertainment. The trustees of. Sir John Ramsden granted the lease of a plot of land, at a low rental, in Ramsden Street, near to St. Paul’s Church. The building was erected at a cost of £2,400 by a com- pany of shareholders, and the hand- some stone facade was ornamented

with bas-reliefs of two rampant horses. After many changes of name and considerable structural

alterations and additions, the building is now used as a cinema.

The new Riding School was opened to the public for the first time on Monday, February 21, 1848, and the honour of first performing in this “light and elegant building” was given to Batty’s Circus, from Astley’s Amphitheatre, London. After the departure of the circus the interior of the Riding School recon- structed with a stage, pit, gallery and boxes, and opened as a theatre on April 24. It remained a theatre with varying degrees of success for fourteen years, and was the first building in Huddersfield to be desig- nated with the proud title of “Theatre Royal.” Although = suc- cessive lessees attempted to improve the interior arrangements, it never quite lost its barn-like look, but local playgoers were thankful that at last they had a waterproof roof over their heads!

Experienced Manager

The first lessee and manager of the new Huddersfield theatre was John Mosley, a theatrical manager of great experience. Mr. Mosley was born at Nottingham in 1806, the son of a farmer. After travelling with two provincial stage circuits Mosley en- tered into management on his own account, ang settled in Yorkshire.



He built the old wooden Theatre Royal at Bradford in 1846, and when he became lessee of the Halifax and Huddersfield theatres he was thus enabled to keep a large company to- yether throughout the year.

Mr. Mosley’s stock companies were the means of introducing many fine players to the stage, inciuding Henry Loraine and Miss Amy Sedgwick. In his young days Mr. Mosley was him- self a first-class light comedian, and ag an exponent of Yorkshire and Lan- casnire characters he had few equals. When declining health compelled him to relinquish. his Yorkshire theatres, he retired to the Isle of Man, and at Douglas fitted up the Wellington Hall as a temporary theatre. Mr. Mosley died on May 238, 1869, and was buried at Onchan Parish Church.

The first season arranged by Mr. Mosley in Huddersfield afforded so much amusement and enjoyment to the inhabitants that he had no diffi- culty in obtaining a renewal cf his licence. In April, 1849, he brought the first actress of international reputation to the town in the person of Miss Charlotte Cushman for two performances. Miss Cushman was an American actress who had be- gun her public career as a singer, but unfortunately her vocal powers en- tirely failed, and she was reduced almost to destitution before a friend persuaded her to try the dramatic stage.

Miss Cushman’s best part was Lady Macbeth, but as Meg Merrilies in the dramatisation of Scctt’s “ Guy Mannering’”’ she achieved immense popularity. Both plays were given in Huddersfield to full houses, and it is certain that the audience trembled at the sight of her hideous mask and dying agonies as Meg. In _ the Shakespeare play Mr. Loraine ap- peared as Macbeth and Mr. Mosley as Macduff.

Greatness and Tragedy

Another talented actor who after- wards became a great favourite with local audiences first appeared in Hud-

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dersfield under Mr. Mosley’s manage- ment—Charles Dillon. Dillon may be said to have been born on the stage, for both his parents were in the theatrical profession, his mother attaining eminence as leading actress with Macready and Edmund Kean. Before the age of fifteen young Dillon was engaged by a London theatre to play juvenile parts. After appear- ing in ballet and small parts, writing melodramas and magazine articles, he made an extraordinary resolution to leave London and not return until he had starred successively in every town of any importance in Gréat Britain.

For years Dillon was the “star” actor of the provinces, and crowded audiences applauded perform- ances. His first and only visit to Mr. Mosley’s Huddersfield theatre was made during May, 1850, and the plays presented included ‘‘ Romeo and _ Juliet,” in which Dillon played Romeo to his wife’s Juliet, and “Hamlet.” Following his London debut in 1856 and management of the Lyceum Theatre, where he appeared in many of his finest roles, Dillon made a tour of the world. His re- ‘appearance in Huddersfield took place in 1867 when the Philosophical Hall had assumed the status of a theatre, after which he was a frequent visitor until the destruction of the building by fire.

Dillon had few equals on the stage. and if only he had possessed sufficient tact and judgment he might have anticipated the. success which was afterwards enjoyed by Henry Irving His London reputation was made in “ Belphegor,” and local playgoers had an opportunity of seeing him in this great part in 1868. While fulfilling an engagement at Hawick on June 24, 1881, Dillon suddenly dropped dead in the High Street. The previ- ous evening he had played the part of “‘ Othello.”

Smoking and Eating

During the winter of 1850-51 the Riding School was sub-let to Samuel Wild, proprietor of a famous travel- ling circus and theatre, In October,


1851, Mr. Mosley formed a _ stock company for the season, after effect- ing many improvements to the build- ing. The acoustics were improved by suspending a temporary roof to confine the sound, while the pit seats were cushioned and the stage light- ing altered. The opening plays in-

cluded ‘She Stccps to Conquer,’ “The Hunchback” and “Richard the Third.”’

The stock company (which also in. cluded Mr. Mosley) was assisted bv visiting ‘star’ players such as Barry Sullivan and Henry Loraine. The latter was stated to be “the most

recognised favourite of the Hudders-

field audience,” and in later years made many appearances at the Philo- sophical Hall. Mr. Loraine’s first engagement with the stock company was made in the play “ Belphegor, the Mountebank.” While smoking was prohibited in the theatre, no such restriction ap- plied to the sale of oranges, apples or ginger beer, which in time became such a nuisance that a public protest

made against the practice.

On February 9 and 16, 1852, the members of the Huddersfield Dramatic Institution gave two per- formances on behalf of the surviving of the Holmfirth Flood. One of the last engagements for which Mr. Mosley was_ responsible before severing his association with the theatre was the visit of a portion of the Haymarket Theatre Company. The first few nights of the visit the house was almost empty, but the combination of talent displayed by the company later secured crowded audiences.

A diorama of the Taj Mahal was exhibited in the theatre late in 1853, and during the following year the then popular actress, Miss Amy Sedgwick, made a personal appear- ance in “Don Caesar de Bazan.” Miss Sedgwick was the daughter of a clergyman, and achieved her first

success at the old Manchester Theatre Royal. When she played again in Huddersfield in 1861 her

Rosalind in “As You Like It” was warmly welcomed.

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First Opera Visit The year 1856 is memorable tor the first visit to the town of a touring opera company under the direction of Henry Corri, a _ leading London vocalist. The operas produced were: “La Sonnambula” (Bellini), ‘“‘ The Bohemian Girl” (Balfe), and ‘“ Der Freischutz’’ (Weber). For many years “La Sonnambula” rivalled Balfe’s ‘‘The Rose of Castile” in popularity with local audiences, At the conclusion of each opera a farce or comedy was staged. Mr. Corri ‘made two return visits to Hudders- field in 1857, while there was also a visit from the Drury Lane English Opera Company.

Herr Teasdale became lessee of the theatre in 1858, and engaged Barry Sullivan for the opening perform- ances. Further improvements were undertaken, the whole interior being gutted and refitted. The proscen-

ium was formed of Doric pilasters in:

white, relieved with gold and blue, and the soffit was ornamented in the centre with a portrait of Shake- speare. A pantomime entitled “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood” was produced on Boxing Day, and played to full houses.

Great Occasions

Huddersfield was privileged to en- joy the fine acting of Charles Kean and Mrs. Kean (Ellen Tree) on three separate occasions. pearance was made on January 6, 1860, in a historical play of the Com- monwealth entitled ‘The Wife’s secret,” andthe acting .at.<one point was reported to draw forth

tears from many eyes. At the end. ‘of the . third. act Mr. ‘and Mrs. Kean were called before

Their first

the curtain. The distinguished couple made a return visit on March 29 in the tragedy of “The Game- ster,” but the “house” was not as crowded as on the previous visit. Their third and final appearance was

made just over a year later in “ The

Merchant of Venice,” playing or lock and Portia respectively.

Notwithstanding such great at- tractions Herr Teasdale’s manage- ment came to an abrupt termination early in 1860, and he was succeeded by Mr. W. 8S. Thorne, who had been proprietor of a Leeds theatre for twelve years. The new: regime brought several opera companies to the town, and was responsible for a number of first performances. These included the following during 1861: “Lucia di Lammermoor” (January 4); “The Rose of Castile” (Febru- ary 11); “Robin Hood” (February 13); ‘“Satanella’” (March 8); and “QLurline” (July 5). Excellent sup- port was given to all the cperas, which makes one wonder why it was necessary to conclude the perform- ance of ‘Lucia di Lammermoor” with an American farce and the singing of “Simon the Cellarer’”’! With the formaticn of the Hud- dersfield Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1859 negotiations were begun for the acquisition of the Ridimg School for use as a drill hall. No agree- ment was at first reached, but in 1862 the premises were sold to the 6th West York Rifles. The former Riding Schcol and Theatre Reyal now became “The New Armoury,” and the town was once again without a permanent theatre.

The first Huddersfield ‘“ Theatre Royal” was not so dull and dingy as reports sometimes suggested, for during its short career it was the

‘means of introducing many distin-

guished artists to the town,

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‘WHE Huddersfield Philosophical Hall was built to meet the de- mand for a central meeting place, and the first twenty-seven years of its history is largely the story of local religious, political, philanthropic, and musical societies. Only a brief account of the outstanding events of those years is possible here, for it

is with the Philosophical Hall as a

theatre with which we are concerned.

One of the first political meetings held in the new hall was notable be- cause of a three hours’ speech by Richard Oastler on the repeal of the New Poor Law. The Huddersfield Choral Society found the building ad- mirable. for their concerts and it remained their ‘home’ even after use as a theatre. |

Johann Strauss the elder, and his dance orchestra, visited London tor the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, and afterwards toured tne country. Such was the success of his first concert in Huddersfield that he was obliged to give a second perform- ance in the Philosophical Hall, which was literally besieged by the public on the night of the concert. ‘The elder Strauss is chiefly remembered today by his ‘‘ Radetzky March,” al- though he composed 152 waltzes in addition to other dance tunes..

Robert Owen, the famous social reformer, acted as chairman in two exciting debates on “Socialism” in the Philosophical Hall during 1839. A great exhibition was opened in the Hall on March 9, 1840, consisting cf working machinery, chemical appara- tus and experiments, art treasures, historical relics, and a dolphin foun- tain. It was necessary to erect

temporary side wings to the building |

in order to accommodate the numerous exhibits, and at Easter a fire balloon was released in Ramsden Street. Mrs. Sunderland, who in latter years enjoyed national fame, was one of the singers at a promenade concert arranged by the exhibition committee.

In 1846 Lord Ashley (afterwards Lord Shaftesbury) addressed a meeting on the Ten Hours Factory Bill, and on October 9 the same year a large company gathered to cele- brate the laying of the first stone of the Huddersfield Railway Station. A Mr. Wilkinson organised a series of Subscription Concerts in 1848.

A Musical Event

On Tuesday, February 138, 1849, great excitement prevailed in the town in consequence of the visit of Mademoiselle Jenny Lind, the famous “Swedish nightingale,’ for a grand concert at the Philosophical Hall. A contemporary report of the concert states that “so rich and splendid a musical treat was never before offered to a local audience.’ The lowest

price of admission was 10s. 6d.

Simg Reeves made his first appear- ance in Huddersfield at the Philo- sophical Hall in 1850. The follow- ing year Henry Vincent, a former prominent Chartist agitator, de- livered six lectures on Cromwell. Mrs. Fanny Kemble gave a reading of “King John” to the members of the Philosophical Society on Apri! 27, 1855. At the Crimean peace re- joicings a pancrama of the war was placed on exhibition.

The Philosophical Hall was _ re- decorated and put in a good state of repair during the autumn of 1856. The outstanding event of 1859 was a visit by P. T. Barnum, of New York, who lectured upon ‘The Science of Money-making,” and gave his pecu- liar definition of “Humbug.” The lecture was reported to have been both “attractive and amusing.”

Adelina Patti was announced to sing at a concert in 1861, but it was postponed on account of her indis- position. The concert took place on October 8, 1862, and was a huge suc- cess. Thalberg, “ the monarch of the pianoforte,” appeared at a concert immediately following, and Carlotta Patti, sister of Adelina, was also a visitor.

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An Initial Failure

When the Riding School in Rams- den Street became a drill hall, Hud- dersfield remained theatreless for just over a year. Early in 1864 Mr. Abraham Mitton, of the Theatre Royal, Halifax, announced that he would open the Philosophical Hall on February 22 with a first-class dram- atic company, having a repertoire of new dramas and comedies of the day. A spacious stage was erected, and comfortable stalls placed in the body of the hall, with a gallery at the back.

Mr. Mitton was not alone in his de-

sire to provide the local public with >

dramatic entertainments. A gentle- man possessing “long experience of the theatrical also inti- mated that he would open the Gym- nasium Hall as a theatre, and indeed would make it the theatre “par ex- cellence’”’ in the town. The Gymna- sium Hall (now Ramsden _ Street Baths) was situated oniy a few doors away from the Philosophical Hail, and was first opened about 1850 as the Apollo Gymnasium for general gymnastic exercises.

The first season of plays in the new theatre was a success, but when later an opera company was booked it was discovered that the acoustic prcperties of the hall had not been improved by the recent alterations. Mrs. Sunderland made her last appearance as a public singer in the Philosophical Hall on June 2 and 3, 1864, and Mr. Mitton ventured a second season of plays in September. This time he was only poorly sup- ported, and after turning to operatic music without any better result, he gracefully retired from the scene.

When, however, the Sadler’s Wells Company, with Miss Catherine Lucette and Mr. Morton Price, visited the theatre in 1865, they found the audiences “highly appreciative” wf their acting.- Miss Alice Marriott, the directress of Sadier’s Wells Theatre and a noted lady Hamlet, also had no reason to complain ut her reception shortly afterwards.

Theatre as an Aid to Sobriety

On the evening of January 23, 1866, the Philosophical Hall was sold by auction to Mr. Morton Price for the sum of £3,000. Mr. Price informed the inhabitants of Huddersfield a few . months later that “ after thorough re- search, full inquiry and mature de- liberation,” he had decided to convert the Philosophical Hall into a first- class theatre, to be called the ‘‘ Hud- dersfield Theatre Royal.” It was not, however, until October 29 that this promise was fulfilled, and the hall opened after a thorough renovation, with its once gloomy and repulsive interior redecorated in bright and fascinating colours. The opening play was ‘The Coriscan Brothers,” a romantic drama (from the French) by Dion Boucicault. The perform- ance concluded with a burlesque in which both Morton Price and Miss Catherine Lucette (now directress of the theatre) had parts.

Although Mr. Price was lessee of the theatre for only two years, he was successful in establishing it as an essential part of the life of the town. Since 1866 the Huddersfield Theatre Royal has experienced many vicissi- tudes and set-backs, as well as great triumphs, but the flag has always been kept flying at the top of the mast.

It is interesting to note one of the advantages which it was claimed would follow the establishment of a theatre in Hudders- field. ‘I believe,” said Mr. Price, in an address from the stage, ‘that at the end of our short season .the annals of drunkenness will be less striking than if the building had been closed.”

Admission Via Crowbar Some excitement was caused at the theatre on the last Sunday in Novem- ber, 1866, when in consequence of a dispute with regard to the use of the premises Charles Bradlaugh, the. noted secularist lecturer, forcibly effected an entrance with the aid of a crowbar. Mr. Price afterwards stated that he did not believe in

Page 18

letting a theatre for any devotional purpose whatever, but in latter years Mr. Bradlaugh was a frequent lec- turer in the theatre.

The name of T. W. Robertson sel- dom appears on theatre bills today,

‘but his series of “cup and saucer

comedies,” the first of which was pro- duced in 1865, created a_ sensation both ir London and the provinces. “Caste”? was given in Huddersfield for the first time in 1868, and many people were unable to obtain seats. The company also gave the first pro- outside London cf another

Robertson comedy, ‘Play,’ the author himself being present. “Caste” and “School” (first local

performance 1869) were stated to be Huddersfield’s two favourite come- dies, but for many years the produc- tion of a Robertson play in the town resulted in full houses.

Two celebrated comedians visited the theatre during August, 1868, in the persons of J. L. Toole and Charles Mathews. The new lessee was Wil- liam Hannan, late Superintendent of the Huddersfield Police Force. Toole’s humour was in the region of broad farce, but he also excelled in combin- ing humour and pathos. Mathews was at his best in light eccentric comedy.

As an ex-Superintendent of Police it was only to be expected that Mr. Hannan would revive that grand old melodrama “The Ticket-of-Leave man,’’ and take for himself the role of Hawkshaw, the detective. Al- though this was his first appearance on the stage he was such a great at- traction that the piece was continued a second week. “The _ Ticket-of- Leave Man” was the work of Tom Taylor, for some time Editor of “Punch,” and writer of over 100 other plays. Mr. Hannan’s last con- tribution to the theatre was the book- ing of an opera company which inter alia gave the first local performance

of “ Rigoletto”’ (November 20, 1868)

Giants Of The Stage

The direction of the Theatre Royal now passed into the hands of Mr. Ed- ward Clayton, a Kirkgate bookseller


and newsagent. Mr. Clayton for many years took a prominent part in public life, and was first a member of the Board of Improvement Commis- sioners and subsequently on the new Town Council. He was also a Poor Law Guardian for the Huddersfield Union.

During his first year’s management

Mr. Clayton brought three very famous “stars” to the town. Miss Kate Bateman gave her’ world- renowned creation of ‘‘Leah” for

one night on May 138, 1869; E. A. Sothern was Dundreary” in “Our American Cousin’; and the great Samuel Phelps played three characteristic roles.

Sothern was an English actor who

* went to the United States in 1852,

and made a great success a few years afterwards as “Lord Dundreary,” a brainless peer, in “Our American Cousin.” He also created the title role in T. W. Robertson’s ‘“ David Garrick,’”’ and on the occasion of his first Huddersfield visit (August 25 and 26, 1869) he played both parts. His third appearance (November 20)

“was in the Robertson comedy, “Home.” : During the eighteen years of Phelps’s management of Sadler’s

Wells Theatre he placed no fewer than thirty-four of Shakespeare’s plays before the public, and made the theatre a power in the dramatic world. His first appearance before a local audience was in his great comic character of ‘“‘Sir Pertinax Macsyco- phant ” in Macklin’s ‘ The Man of the

World,” but on the second night (October 23, 1869) he. played “Othello.” Phelps was a powerful

actor and stood supreme in certain character parts.

There was also a visit by a real giant to the Assembly Room of the theatre during this eventful year. This was Chang, a Chinese over eight feet in height, who was accom-: panied by his wife, King-Foo.

Novelty Which Failed

One of the bookings at the theatre in 1870 was “a romantic and specta- cular drama” entitled ‘“ Firefly.”

Page 19


The scenes included a great fire, in which a Miss Edith Sandford (‘‘authoress, actress and equestri- enne’’) mounted on her wonderful trained horse “ rode up a pre- cipice through volumes of flame. This sensational incident was stated everywhere to rouse audiences to a frenzy of enthusiasm, but unfortun- ately so far as Huddersfield was con- cerned the play failed to attract re- munerative audiences.

An Offenbach light opera was pro- duced for the first time in Hudders- field on October 17, 1870, the choice being ‘The Grand Duchess of Gercl- stein.” Miss Amy Sedgwick made a farewell visit in ‘‘ Masks and Faces.’ The following year Charles Dillon was seen in ‘King Lear,” and Mr. and Mrs. John Billington made their debut at the theatre. The Billingtons had a- long association with the old Adelphi Theatre, London, and always visited Huddersfield during their pro- vincial tours.

‘Miss Caroline Heath (Mrs. Wilson Barrett) visited the theatre in 1871, and although Mr. Wilson Barrett’s name appeared in the cast no men-


tion is made of his acting. Incident- ally, Mr. Barrett was responsible for the first local produced pantomime on January 23, 1872. It was entitled “Harlequin St. George and_ the Dragon,” and one of the scenes was a landscape view of Castle Hill. The pantomime enjoyed a run of five weeks,

Samuel Emery, a clever character actor, gave a fine example of his art in the dramatisation of Charles Dickens’s story, “‘ David Copperfield,” under the title of “Little Em’ly.’’ The year 1871 was rich in opera, and visits were made by two English and two German companies. Dion Bouci- cault’s powerful drama “ Arrah-na- Pogue” was the outstanding produc- tion in 1872.

Before the theatre was closed for cleaning and re-decoration the stage was given over to a very successful presentation of French Marionettes, while a month later the building was crowded for a series of lectures on ‘Phrenology and Physiology’! Mr. Clayton certainly did his best to please every one during his manage- ment of the Huddersfield Theatre Royal.

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““\NE of the handsomest and most

comfortable theatres in the North of England” was the descrip- tion applied to the Huddersfield

Theatre Royal when it was re-opened by Mr. Clayton on September 30, 1872. The stage had been enlarged and raised two feet, four private boxes constructed at the side, and the dress circle remodelled, The floor of the hall had also been relaid, and the black old forms replaced with “ ele- gantly cushioned seats covered with crimsoned velvet.” The new decora- tions included painted portraits of Miss Heath, Mr. Richard Younge, Macready, Phelps, and Shakespeare, and the auditorium was cheerfully lighted by a handsome star burner with a metal reflector.

The Robertson comedies now shared the stage with English ver- sions of French opera bouffe, the Irish dramas of Dion Boucicault, and melodramas by Charles Reade and Wilkie Collins. Lecocq’s ‘‘ La Fille de Madame Angot” was a firm favour- ite with local audiences, and in 1874 the touring company visited the theatre on no fewer than three occa- sions. Alexandre Charles Lecocq was a who made his chief success with ‘“ Madame Angot,”’ which had a London run of 400 nights, but he was responsible for a large number of other comic operas, of which “ Girofle-Girofla’’ was perhaps the: best Known in Huddersfield.

Offenbach was a close rival of

Lecocq’s with ‘““ Genevieve de and “La Princesse de Trebizonde.” © French comic opera

held the stage until the commence- ment of the Gilbert and Sullivan combination in 1875, but the first of the new series of comic operas did not reech Huddersfield until a few months before the destruction of the theatre by fire.

Boucicault Sensations

Woman in White” and ‘It’s Never Too Late to Mend,” dramatisa- tions of two -famous -noyels by

Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade respectively, together with — the evergreen “East Lynne,” apparently helped to restore the equilibrium of local playgoers before assimilating each of the new plays by Dion Boucicault. Boucicault, ‘‘ The Irish Shakespeare,” first came into prom- inence with the production of ‘““London Assurance” in 1841, The first of his sensational dramas, ‘ The Colleen Bawn,”’ was presented in Huddersfield in 1862 at the old Riding School, and during 1874 at Mr. Clayton’s theatre by a company which included a young actor named Edward Compton. Its striking mechanical effect (transparent stage water) proved a great attraction. This was the play which made the author a handsome fortune, which he subsequently lost in the management of various London theatres.

In “The Shaughraun” (May .1, 1876) Boucicault gave his audience more mechanical wonders (four tableaux and twelve scenes), and in “Conn” the best stage Irishman ever seen. A visit of ‘““The Octoroon”’ quickly followed. The character of Zoe was sustained by an actress who had already played the part for 300 nights. The ‘sensation scenes ”’ this time were a slave sale and the destruction of a steamer by fire. Mention has already been made of “ Arrah-na-Pogue”’ and its realistic battlements scene.

Balaclava Survivor

W. H. Pennington, an actor with a very interesting career, visited the Theatre Royal on April 7, 1873. Pen- nington was the son of a London schoolmaster, and first became a soldier. He was one of the few wounded survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, and is the central figure in Lady Butler’s famous picture of this epic deed. Mr. Pennington was a typical actor of the old school, and lived to the age of ninety-one years,

Page 21


The brilliant and witty comedy ‘“Qur Boys” made its bow in Hud- dersfield only a few months after its London debut at the Vaudeville (1875), where it smashed all previous stage records, achieving a run of four years and three months. It re- visited the town on numerous occa- sions. ~The companies were under the management of Mr. William Duck. A fairy comedy, “The Wicked World,” by W. 8S. Gilbert (later of Gilbert and Sullivan fame), was seen in 1873, Almost all Gilbert’s early


Daring And Amazing Feats

When Mr. E. Clayton retired from the lesseeship of the Huddersfield Theatre Royal at the end of 1875, he was presented with a handsome gold watch-guard by friends and em- ployees. About this time the pro- perty was purchased by Mr. James Allen Love, a retired local pawn- broker, and his first lessee was Mr. John Hudspeth who, however, was superseded after a few months by Mr. John William White.

The old Theatre Royal (formerly Philosophical Hall) after the fire on February 15, 1880.

stage efforts were toured, and Hud- dersfield playgoers were then as familiar with ‘“ The Palace of Truth” (another fairy drama), ‘ Pygmalion and Galatea,’ ‘‘Dan’l Druce, Black- smith,’ and ‘‘Hngaged” (with the famous comedian George Honey) as they are today with the Savoy operas.

Mr. White was well known to -he Huddersfield public through his man- agement of the Gymnasium Hall, first as ‘Professor John Le Blanc” and subsequently. under his own ‘name. He had also during Mr. Clayton’s lesseeship given a five months’ season of variety entertainments at

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theatre, and on one occasion pre- sented two gymnasts whose act con- sisted of a leap for life from the gal- lery right across the auditorium to the far side of the stage, turning a double somersault in the passage through the air! Both Mr. White and Miss Bertha Lydia Thompson (Mrs. White) were popular singers, and in the Christmas pantomimes at the theatre they were usually allotted important parts.

After the usual cleaning and re- decoration Mr. White opened his “Temple of Drama” with a sensa- tional American play entitled ‘Si Slocum.” The company included Mr. and Mrs. Frank I. Frayne, known professionally as the “ Kentucky Rifle Team.” Mr. Frayne gave a remark- able exhibition of shooting, and in one scene performed the “ astounding feat”? of shooting an apple off his wife’s head, with the barrel of the gun over his left shoulder, the aim being taken through a small mirror.

Local Shakesperian Actor

When Herr and Mrs. Bandmann made their second visit to the theatre in 1876, it was announced that on the occasion of the perform- ance of ‘ Othello,” Mr. Shakespeare Hirst, “‘ Huddersfield’s great and only amateur tragedian,”’ would enact for the first time in his native town the part of “Othello” to Herr Band- mann’s “Iago.” Mr. Hirst was for many years the licensee of the Shakespeare Inn, Northgate, and his Sunday evening Shakespeare recitals were very popular. Before retiring from the stage to take charge of his father’s inn, Mr. Hirst toured the country with his own stock company, and he give a farewell performance of “Hamlet” in Huddersfield on October 23, 1879. Daniel Edward Bandmann was a German actor who acquired a considerable reputation as an actor in Shakespearian drama in his own country and the United States before coming to London in 1868.

Mr. White formed a stock com- pany for his first dramatic season,


and followed it with the pantomime “Jack and the Beanstalk,” in which the artists numbered 150. ‘“ Pink Dominoes,” a comedy which had been witnessed by the Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward VII.) on four occasions, came to the theatre in 1877. The pantomime the same year was arranged and written by the in- defatigable Mr. White, and rejoiced in the extraordinary title of “ Robin- son Crusoe, or the Demon of Denby Dale and the Lily Lady of Lin- thwaite.” Charles Mathews, the comedian, appeared at the theatre for three nights on May 7, 1878, in his own comedy, “My Awful Dad”: within a month he was dead.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was staged in 1878 with real negro freed slaves in chants and hymns of the Moody and Sankey type. With the opening of the new Municipal Offices in June, the rooms at the front of the build- ing were converted into a refresh- ment saloon and ladies’ retiring | rooms. The outstanding event in con- nection with this year’s pantomime was the illumination of the front of the theatre ‘by the new electric light.

D’Oyly Carte’s First Visit “At last! After being sung in Londen and the provinces for over sixteen months we have now an opportunity of judging for ourselves the merits of thig successful comic opera.” This was the announcement which greeted the visit of R. D’Oyly C2rte’s Company on September 15, 1879. for three performances of “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Notwithstanding increased prices the largest audience éver assembled within the theatre was present at the first performance, and the unanimous verdict was that everything written about the comedy was not more than it deserved. A return visit for a week was made on October 27, when each evening the performance was preceded by a musical absurdity written by the conductor of the opera.

The visit of the D’Oyly Carte Company was followed by the first visit of Carl Rosa’s English Opera Company, with Mr. Rosa himself as conductor, On the first evening

Page 23

(December 15) ‘“Maritana”’ played with only moderate effect, the tenor being hoarse and the “Don Jose” flat. There was an improved performance the following evening of “The Bohemian Girl,’ and for the last night of the visit Ambroise Thomas’s ‘‘Mignon” was the highest degree satisfactory and the theatre crowded to its utmost capacity. The pantomine of “‘ Beauty and the Beast’ was produced on Christmas Eve, 1879, and continued its run until February 7 of the new year. Myr. White’s eighth annual benefit tcck place on Shrove Tuesday, February 10, 1880, and the remainder of the week was occupied with Charles Reade’s version of ‘ L’Assommoir--- Drink,” with “realistic scenery and effects.”’

The Final Scene

Karly on Sunday morning, Febru- ary 15, a police-constable on duty at the police station, situated at the rear of the Philosophical Hall (now the Weights and Measures Offices), discovered the building to be on fire. Although there was a copious supp}y of water available, it was impossible to save the theatre, and in a very short time the whole interior was reduced to a few charred beams. ‘The efforts to save the Ramsden Strect portion of the building were successful, and there was no more serious injury to the firemen than a severe leg strain by one man.


was .

The fire was believed to have ori- ginated in the paint shop of the theatre and quickly spread to the scenery stored behind the stage. The damage was estimated at about £2,000, which was covered by insur- ance. Considerable sympathy was expressed with Mr. White, the lessee, in view of the extensive alterations which he had only recently completed. The esteem in which Mr. White was held in the town was evident from the fact that when Keith’s Circus opened a three months’ season on February 23, half the proceeds at one of the

performances during the second week

were presented to him.

Mr. J. A. Love, the owner of the destroyed building, at once announced his intention of erecting an entirely new theatre, while the ‘‘ Madame Favart’’ company, which had been booked to appear the day following the fire; were allowed the use of the

Armoury. Fire, the arch-enemy of every theatre, had claimed yet another

victim, but although the loss of treasured memories is not to be lightly dismissed, few tears were shed at the passing of a building which was hopelessly unsuited for a theatre. With the destruction of the Philo- sophical Hall the way was at last clear for the building of a theatre which could adequately present first- class companies and make playgoing a pleasure and not a discomfort.

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sixty years’ history of the present Huddersfield Theatre Royal can conveniently be divided into four periods. from its opening in 1881 to the spring of 1900, when the building was closed for extensive interior alterations. The years from the re-opening in 1901 to the end of 1917 are rich in musical comedy memories, while the Wareing era (1918-31) is almost withcut parallel in the history of the English stage. During the past ten years the theatre has had to meet the full force of the competition from the talkies, but it has success- fully weathered the storm, and is again adding new laurels to its wonderful past. Within a month of the destruction of the Philoso- phical Hall plans were prepared for a new theatre, and on August 10, 1880, the stone of the build- ing was laid by Mrs. J. W. White, the wife of the lessee of the old theatre, The building was almost completed when a workman in the gallery staircase over- balanced and sus- tained fatal in- juries. <A benefit performance on behalf of = his widow and_ chil- dren was held in the theatre shortly after its opening. Tne new Theatre Royal, the first building in the town to be designed and erected exclu- sively for the per- formance of stage plays, was. the

The first dates.

The Theatre Royal as it opened on April 11, 1881.

work of Mr. B. E. Entwistle, A.R.I.B.A., Southport. Originally it had seating accommodation * for 1,250 persons, compared with the present total of 1,160. The level of the stage was so arranged that a carriage and pair could be driven direct from the street on to the stage. Over the stage opening was a

large fresco painting illustrative of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies, while the sixteen ceiling panels con- tained figures representing music and drama. The act drop depicted a party of merry-makers embarking on board a large gondola.


when firs


Page 25

“As You Like It”.

The opening ceremony took place on Monday, April 11, 1881, before a crowded audience. The preliminaries consisted of the singing by a choir of 100 voices of Sir Michael Costa’s setting of the National Anthem, and the delivering:cf an inaugural address by Mr. White, the lessee. This address was entirely in verse, and inter alia informed the audience that “Stars of high eminence have been engaged To suit the various tastes of youth and aged.” After a few remarks by Mr. Love, the owner of the theatre, Miss Wallis and her company gave a performaice of Shakespeare’s “ As You Like it,” Miss Wallis’s “Rosalind” being “worthy of her high reputation.” The evening’s proceedings were brought to a close with a theatrical! at the George Hotel. “Romeo and Juliet,” ‘‘Ninon,” and ‘Still Waters Run Deep” were given on successive evenings during the week, and the theatre was closed on Good Friday.

In one respect the new theatre was unique: it was completed without dressing-rooms. The property ad- jacent to the theatre in Ramsden Street was intended to provide ac- ~ecommodation for the artists, but un- fortunately agreement could not he reached with the owners. iy the circumstances small rooms had to be built up in the “ of the theatre, with a spiral staircase leading up to them. After the terrible loss of life at the Exeter theatre fire in 1887, the authorities condemned this danger- ous arrangement, and in the recon- struction during 1900 the dressing-rooms were made.

Gilbert And Sullivan Operas

“The Sorcerer,” the third and one of the best of the long series of comic operas which delighted the English public for a score of years, was given its first performance at the Hudders- field Theatre Royal on May 9, 1881. As each new work was produced in London it was sent on tour by


‘D’Oyly Carte, and usually arrived in

Huddersfield about six months after- wards. “H.M.S. Pinafore” had already been given at the old theatre, and “The Pirates of Penzance” followed Sorcerer.” There was a first- class house for the visit on June 20, and the long newspaper reports stated that the company was “very nearly perfection.” ‘ Patience” and ‘“Tolanthe’”’ came in 1882 and 1883 respectively. The production ot “Princess Ida’ on February 18, 1884, was of special interest localiy, because the company included the lave Fred Billington, a native of Lock- wood. “The Mikado” per- formed on December 14, 1885; “ Rud- digore”’ in 1888; and “The Yeomen of the Guard” in 1889. “The Gon- doliers”’ was ‘‘very successful” in 1890. After this last-named work a certain coolness developed between the two famous collaborators, and when the next Savoy Theatre offer- ing (“The Nautch Girl”) wa- brought by D’Oyly Carte to Hudders- field in 1892, it was noted that the music was not as sweet as Sullivan, while the dialogue was also rather inferior. However, the D’Oyly Carte Com- panies were now able to tour with a repertoire of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and everywhere they played to crowded theatres. The breach be- tween the two men being temporarily healed, ‘‘ Utopia Limited’’ was seen in 1894 and ‘“‘ The Grand Duke” in 1896, although as regards the latter it was not appreciated as much as the other old favourites. The Savoy Operas have lost none of their popu- larity, although their visits to Hud- dersfield have not been nearly so fre- quent recently as in the days wher they played at the theatre three times a year, in addition to engagements at the old Empire Theatre.

Probably no other comic opera has ever achieved the success of “Les Cloches de Corneville,” or been played so many times on the Huddersfield stage. For years it made an annual visit, with Shiel Barry in his original part of Gaspard, the Miser. In con-

Page 26

trast, Planquette’s ‘Rip Van

Winkle ” made only one visit.

Famous Local Actor

John Glendinning, who first visited the theatre in October, 1881, was the youngest of the three sons of the late Charles Glendinning, a prominent Huddersfield woollen merchant. In his youth Mr. Glendinning was well known as an amateur actor, and when he adopted the stage as a profession he frequently visited his native town in such thrilling dramas as “ Union Jack” and “In the Subse- quently Mr. Glendinning went to the United States with Mr. and Mrs. Kendal’s company, where he made a name for himself. Upon his return Huddersfield welcomed him _ in “Rough and Ready.”’

After re-visiting the United States and Canada on_ several occasions, where his biggest success was “ The Rosary,” Mr. Glendinning toured Great Britain with this play. He took the part of a genial and shrewd Irish priest (Father Kelly), with Miss Jessie Millward (Mrs. Glendinning) in the dual character of two sisters. Mr. Glendinning visited Huddersfield for the last time on January 24, 1916, and he died, aged fifty-seven years, on July 16, 1916.

Edward Compton was another famous actor closely associated with Huddersfield, both by reason of the annual visits which he made with the Compton Comedy Company and his joint proprietorship of the Theatre Royal. The Compton Comedy Com- pany was formed in 1881, and toured the country for over thirty years with a _ repertoire of some fifty

English comedies such as ‘She Stoops to Conquer,” ‘The Comedy of Errors,” ‘“ School for Scandal,” “ The Rivals,” and ‘Davy Garrick.’ Miss

Virginia Bateman, Edward Compton’s wife, was one of the famous ‘“ Bate- man children,’ and it was her father who gave Henry Irving his first en- gagement at the Lyceum Theatre.

The Comptons first visited Hud- dersfield on October 31, 1881, and Mr. Compton played ‘“ Davy Garrick ” for


the last time on September 12, 1914. With the late Milton Bode he was joint proprietor of the theatre from 1903 to 1918.

“Stupendous Attractions ”

Since the last war the theatre has left the staging of spectacular and sensational plays to the film pro- ducers, although Sir Oswald Stoll at the London Coliseum and_ Ivor Novello at Drury Lane have proved themselves worthy successors to the two great masters of stage-craft, Harris and Collins. iMJarthquakes, railway collisions and blood-curdling situations held audiences spellbound during the closing years of the last century and eclipsed all previous ef-

forts of this description.

“The World” was the first of these spectacular sensational dramas which Sir Augustus Harris wrcte in association with H. -Fettitt and P. Meritt, and it was seen in Hudders- field on November 14, 1881. The explosion of the infernal machine and the raft scene evoked tremendous applause. When “Youth” visited the theatre the company was assisted in the troopship scenes by the local Volunteers. In “A Run of Luck” there were three real blood horses and a pack of foxhounds; a carnival and battle of flowers in ‘‘ Pleasure ’’; more racehorses and a reef in the Indian Ocean in “A Million ef Money”; while in “The Prodigal Daughter” the racehorses included the Grand National winner, Volup- tuary, and a real water jump in the middle of the stage!

The new Maxim guns firing 600 rounds a minute, using smokeless powder, was the thrill in “A Life of Pleasure,” and in the Trafalgar Square scene in ‘‘ Human Nature” a local brass band and over 100 people were on ‘the stage together. One hesitates to think what Harris would have attemped in the theatre had he lived in this mechanical age. Fortun- ately when playgoers tired of all this spectacle they were able to find re- lief in the plays of a new dramatist —Arthur Wing Pinero.

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Star Comedian And Famous Composer

The first pantcmime produced at the present Theatre Royal was “ Jack the Giant Killer,’ with harlequinade and grand juvenile army of thirty- two children for storming the giant’s castle. J. W. Rowley in a realistic drama entitled ‘For Gold” was the Whitsuntide attraction of 1882.

Rowley, although born at Bradford,

was always regarded as Hudders-

field’s own comedian. For years he was a “top-liner” in the English music-hall, and his proprietorship of Rowley’s Varieties in St. Street (now the site of the Post Office) will long be remembered.

“The Silver King,’ most famous of Wilson Barrett’s melodramas, visited the theatre for the first time on October 22, 1883. His equaliy famous “The Sign of the Cross” was played to crowded houses on March 15, 1897. Included in the cast of “The Woman in White,’ which was revived during December, 1884, is the name of Mr. Charles Macdona, now joint proprietor of the theatre. ©

When Offenbach’s “The Grand Duchess’”’ was performed in 1885, it was conducted by the famous com- poser, Sir Julius Benedict, who also played a pianoforte solo between the first and second acts. The Rev. Robert Spalding, of ‘‘The Private Secretary ’”’ fame, received his Hud- dersfield ‘“‘induction”’ on May 185,


Mr. J. W. White was succeeded by hig wife as lessee of the theatre in December, 1886, but after eighteen months’ management a receiving or- der was made against her. Before Mr. Richard Flanagan assumed con-

‘trol the theatre welcomed the Grand

Russian National Opera Company in performances of. Anton Rubinstein’s “The Demon” and “ The Patriot.”

Mr. Flanagan was the lessee for four years, during which time the theatre received visits from Ben Greet (afterwards Sir Philip Ben Greet) and George Mr. Flanagan also organised a _ stock

ae a AC st OR EI bo



company, one of the members being A. E. W. Mason, now famous as a novelist. After leaving Huddersfield Mr. Flanagan became lessee of the old Queen’s Theatre, Manchester, where he staged numerous Shake- spearean revivals. Upon the demoli- tion of the building Mr. Flanagan be- came associated with the company which built the new Queen’s Theatre, now renamed the Manchester Opera House.

“The Broken Melody ”

Messrs. S. A. and W. Robinson took over the Theatre in 1894. The Robinsons afterwards helped to es- tablish the Northern Theatres Com- pany, and in 1900 they relinquished control of the Theatre Royal and transferred their bookings to the Em- pire Theatre (late “ Rowley’s”’). An interesting engagement at _ the Theatre Royal in October, 1893, was

‘the celebrated actor and musician,

Auguste Van Biene, in ‘‘ The Broken Melody.” Van Biene was a superb ‘cello player, and performed in this musical play nearly 6,000 times. His end was very tragic, for he died while playing on the stage of the Brighton Hippodrome in 1913.

Oscar Wilde’s great society play, “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” attracted good houses during the summer of 1894. “After long and anxious waiting ” local playgoers revelled in the antics of ‘‘Charley’s Aunt” on June 10, 1895, and a few weeks later were fascinated by another famous play, “ A Royal Divorce,” with Edith Cole as Josephine and J. H. Clyndes as Napoleon.

_Mr. and Mrs. Kendal made their first appearance at the theatre for three performances in March, 1896, and were greatly admired by “a large and fashionable house.” The Haymarket Theatre _ success, “Trilby,” delighted local audiences, especially Mr. Charles Garry in the role -of “Svengali.”.. “The. “Shop Girk. . “The: and. “tia Poupee’”’ were the heralds of the musical comedy invasion of _ the stage. The arrival of ‘‘ The Belle of

Page 28

New York” in Huddersfield (Decem- ber 5, 1898) caused almost as big a furore as did the importation of the entire American company to London earlier in the year.

New Theatre Proposal

Shortly before the expiration of their lease the Northern Theatres Company appointed Mr. Frank Mat- cham, well-known _ theatrical architect, of London, to prepare plans and superintend the erection of a new Grand Theatre on the present Post Office site. The area was con- siderably more than double the size of the site covered by the Theatre Royal. Unfortunately, Mr. Mat- cham’s plans appeared to have been

too costly, for the whole proposal was subsequently abandoned.

Before the Theatre Royal was closed in 1900 by order of the Hud- dersfield Corporation, J. M. Barrie’s comedy, ‘“ The Little Minister,” and A. W. Pinero’s ‘‘The Second Mrs. Tanqueray ” made first visits. The Moody-Manners Opera Company, with Madame Fanny Manners and Charles Manners, played a week of grand opera, including a first per- formance of “The Amber Witch” (Wallace). Thus the curtain was rung down on the first phase of the Huddersfield Theatre Royal, safe in the knowledge that the highest theatrical traditions had been faith- fully served.

~~ il ae Ss

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XCEPT for minor improvements and interior decorations’ the Theatre Royal which evolved from the reconstruction at the beginning of the present century is the theatre which we know today. The altera- tions of 1900 had the four-fold object of providing better exits, improved lavatory accommodation, more ven- tilation and fireproof staircases. The Ramsden Street entrance was en- tirely reconstructed, and the wooden staircase to the dress circle replaced by a fireproof cne. The danger to the old dressing-rooms has already been noted. The new arrange- ments provided for the stage to be completely shut off from the audi- torium by a fireproof curtain. The local authority also insisted upon the erection of a verandah in harmony with: the building. In all the theatre was closed eleven months, and the cost of the alterations amounted to £5,000.

The new lessee was the late Milton Bode, who we2s_ also proprietor of theatres at Leicester, Reading, Northampton and Chester. Shortly after the reopening Bode was joined by Edward Compton, and the theatre remained under their joint control until 1918. The keynote of the policy pursued during these eventful years was admirably epitomised in the pro- duction which reopened the theatre on March 11, 1901: ‘‘ The Cruise of H.M.S. Irresponsible,’ a musical play featuring the famous comédian, Arthur Roberts.

The mid-Victcrian stodginess of the theatre, which had never quite re- covered from W. S. Gilbert’s devasta- ting satire, was now finally banished by the new musical plays and comedies from the Gaiety and Daly’s

Theatres. The new shows came to the Huddersfield Theatre Royal in a never-ending stream, with return visits at frequent intervals. As a prelude ‘The Sam-Sings” (The Warriors), a Chinese light opera by two local writers, Messrs. Ernest

Woodhead and F. V. Lawton, was produced for the first time at the theatre on May 27.

In place of the usual pantomime, “San Toy” was the Christmas attraction, and the lpcal public en- dorsed the comment of a contempor- ary that this was “a happy inspira- tion’”’ by crowding each performance. The pretty music,.gorgeous Oriental settings, and magnificent dresses of this famous Daly’s musical play made an irresistible appeal. Incidentally, this was not the first presentation of “San Toy” in Huddersfield, for it

had visited the Empire Theatre the

previous April. ‘San Toy”’ repeated its triumph the following Christmas (1902).

A Variety Of “ Girls ” To note all the musical plays and comedies which visited the Hudders- field Theatre Royal from 1901. to 1918 would require unlimited space and considerable forbearance on the part of the reader. The “Girls” in the titles alone present a _ baffling array. They include ‘A Country Girl,” “The Cherry Girl,” ‘“ The Girl from Kay’s,” Earl and the Girl,” ‘‘ The Girl in the Train,” ‘ The Gir] in the Taxi,” ‘‘ The Quaker Girl,” and a host of others.

From time to time they were joined by ‘‘The Duchess of Danzig,” “The Prince of Pilsen,” ‘“ The Merry

Widow ”’ and ‘Miss Hook of Holland.”’ Other notable’ visitors were ‘The Toreador,” ‘‘ Veronique,”

“The Cingalee,” and ‘Oh! Oh! Del- phine.”’ The musical honours were shared by Sidney Jones, Lionel Monckton, Howard Talbot, Paul Rubens, Leslie Stuart and _ others. The charm and melody of these famous successes of the past dare in striking contrast to so many of the present formless entertainments.

“Florodora,”’ Leslie Stuart’s joy- ous musical comedy, was first intro- duced to local audiences on February 1, 1903. Another old favourite, ‘“‘ The Arcadians,”’ was given its premiere at Christmas, 1909. Both pieces made many return visits, and they were probably the most popular of all the musical productions at _ the theatre.

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Too Realistic!

An event which at the time was re- garded as a novelty, but was destined to revolutionise public entertainment, took place at Rowley’s Empire on September 21, Included in the programme was “The _ Theatro- graph,” described as ‘the most en- tertaining event of the The animated photographs which were thrown by the machine on to a screen were so distinct that there was “no difficulty in distinguishing the least part of them.” Next Christmas the ‘“Lifeograph Moving Photographs ’”’ at Rowley’s were so realistic that when scenes at Bolton Railway Station appeared on the screen the audience in the front seats made a frantic dash for safety. Cinemato- graph pictures were used to very good effect at the Theatre Royal in a Drury Lane drama entitled ‘‘ Hearts Are Trumps” during 1901.

For many years this new enter- tainment was not a serious rival to the theatre, but other important changes were taking place. On January 6, 1902, the Empire Theatre changed over to the twice-nightly system, which had been tried with success in London a few years be- fore. A: the end of the month the proprietors of the Empire purchased the Armoury, which had become vacant in consequence of the cpening of the new Drill Hall in St. Paul’s Street. When the local magistrates refused the renewal of the Empire Theatre licence in 1904 the directors decided to convert the Armoury into an up-to-date music-hall, and after considerable alterations it was opened on July 21, 1905, by Vesta Tilley as “The Hippodrome.”’

From the first the Hippodrome proved successful, and in 1909 came the announcement of another music- hall in Kirkgate. The first Palace Theatre was erected in record time ‘and opened on August Bank Holiday, 1909, the performances also being twice nightly. For several years both the Hippodrome and the Palace in- cluded “pictures” in their pro- grammes. At the Victoria Hall ‘“Pringles’’ gave regular seasons of “animated pictures,’ and in 1911 the

old Post Office Skating Rink became a picture hall under the title of “Theatre De Luxe.” The Picture House in Ramsden Street was the first building in Huddersfield to _ be erected specially for the exhibition of films. It was opened on Boxing Day, 1912, and occupies a site originaliy intended as part of the Theatre Royal.

Famous Detective Role

Although musical comedies formed the biggest proportion of the book- ings at the theatre during the years under review, the more serious play- goer was not forgotten. H. A. Saints- bury appeared in his famous part as Sherlock Holmes in the play of that name, and also in ‘“‘The Four Just Men,” the first of Edgar Wallace’s many plays.

Dramatised versions of several of Hall Caine’s novels, notably ‘“ The Eternal City” and “The Christian,”

made several visits. Sir Frank Ben- son commenced his long association

with the Huddersfield Theatre Royal by a visit with his Shakespearean Company on November 27, 1905.

A Red-Letter Day

Two events of first-rate import- ance took place in Huddersfield on Monday evening, November 16, 1908. Although two years before that date Ellen Terry had celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of her first appearance on the stage, she had never visited Huddersfield. The play in which this great actress made her only appear- ance at the Theatre Royal was by a new dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, who was described by one local writer as “a man of strange tastes, imaginations, and, it might be added, convictions.”

“Captain Brassbound’s Conversion,” however, was well received, and the irresistible humour and the _ per- tinacity of purpose that Miss Terry gave to the part of Lady Cicely Waynfiete earned her a wonderful ovation. Captain Brassbound was played by Mr. James Carew, her American actor husband. In 1912 She toured the country lecturing on

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Shakespeare’s heroines. and came to the Huddersfield Town Hall.on Jan- uary 16.

More Shaw Plays—And Expressions!

Strange to relate, the next Shaw play in Huddersfield (‘‘ was given at the new Palace Theatre on the occasion of a flying matinee by Miss Horniman’s Company from the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester (April 6, 1910). The players in- cluded Basil Dean, B. Iden Payne and Ada King. ““Man’' and Super- man” and “The Philanderer’”’ were played at the Theatre Royal in 1911,


and the following year Mr. Esme ©

Percy and Mr. B. Iden Payne intro- duced two further plays in “The Man of Destiny” (the Napoleonic episode) and “How He Lied To Her Husband ” (sometimes described as a burlesque on ‘‘ Candida’’).

Mr. Charles Macdona, who in 1921 acquired the rights of all Mr. Ber- nard Shaw’s plays for the provinces and organised his famous company, “The Macdona Players,’’ acted in “Fanny’s First Play” at the theatre in 1918. Strange adjectives and ex- pressions ‘‘ shocked” local playgoers on February 14, 1916, when Miss Florence Jackson gave her interpre- tation of the now famous Cockney flower girl from “ Pygmalion.” A return visit was demanded in Sep- tember.

“The Whip,” one of the greatest of Drury Lane plays; visited the theatre with its horses, jockeys, hounds and mechanical effects (also actors and actresses!) in March, 1911. In ‘Sealed Orders” (1915). all the thrills were provided by the new in- ventions of the motor-car and the airship. | The plays of Henrik Ibsen, the famous Norwegian dramatist sand poet, outraged too many conventions to be popular in this country, and it was not until 1912 that Huddersfieid

had an opportunity of judging four

of his works: These were: ‘The Doll’s House,” “‘The Master Builder,” “Hedda Gabler’ and ‘“Rosmersholm.”’ When ‘ Ghosts” was performed at

the theatre on August 27, 1917, oniy adults were admitted.

Fairy Story And Thriller

At the end of the 1912 spring dramatic season the Theatre Royal) presented its first twice nightly play with the appropriate title, ‘“‘ A Noble Sacrifice.”” Before the outbreak of the European War two _ famous “stars” visited the theatre—Mr. (now Sir) Seymour Hicks in a pro- gramme of three plays, and an im- personation of ‘ Scrooge,” and Julia

Neilson in = “Sweet Nell of Old Drury.” A wonderful invention called ‘‘ Kinemacolor,’’ which pro-

jected steroscopic life motion pictures in actual colours, was an attraction in May, 1913, while in October Miss Marjorie Manners was an extremely graceful Peter Pan.

It was predicted that following Mr. Matheson Lang’s first visit to Huddersfield on January 4, 1915, there would be an epidemic of in- somnia among theatre habituees! Mr. Lang gave a really terrific perform- ance as the sinister “Mr. Wu” in the play of that name. A play of an entirely different character was seen at the theatre later in the year— “ Quinney’s’”’—and Mr. Edward Ir- win’s portrayal of this lovable York- shireman was ‘‘an unalloyed joy.” “ Grumpy,’ with Horace Hodges, was another play with a similar appeal.

A New Opera

During 1915 the musical comedy, “The Little Michus,”’ visited the theatre with “a clever actress” called Miss Gertrude Lawrence. Likewise Mr. Alfred Denville, M.P., whose stock companies are now so well known in the town, appeared during 1916 in his own Scots play, “ Annie Laurie.”” Visits by opera companies were not very frequent during these musical comedy years, but mention must be made of the first local per- formance on December 8, 1916, of “Madame Butterfly.” There was a very large house, and the O’Mara Opera Company gave a spirited ren- dering of Puccini’s music,

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The celebrated comedian, Albert Chevalier, visited the theatre on Ocio- ber 8, 1917, in the role of Eccles in a revival of ‘‘Caste.” The company was presented by Mr. Alfred Ware- ing, who was also making his first visit to the theatre of which he was so soon afterwards to be the presiding genius.

The last musical comedy before the theatre changed hands was “ Ihe Maid of the Mountains,’ and after- wards Mr. Matheson Lang brought the season to a close with a romantic costume play, ‘The Purple Mask.’


The Milton Bode-Edward Compton management of the theatre was con- sistent rather than spectacular. {It had no pretension or wish to raise the theatre above the status suitable to a “No. 2”? town. This is in no wise a belittlement of the many fine artists who visited Huddersfield during those years. Indeed, the theatre was for- tunate in being in the hands of two men whose love of the drama was stronger than their business acumen to “cash in” on either the popularity of the music-hall or the cinema.

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N 1918, Mr. W. D. Foster, a York- shire industrialist now living at Brighouse, intimated to some friends in London that he would like to assist the new repertory theatre movement. He was subsequently in- troduced to Mr. Alfred Wareing, who in 1909 had founded the Glasgow Repertory Theatre, the first citizens’ theatre and second repertory theatre in the country. Mr. Wareing informed Mr. Foster that the Huddersfield Theatre Royal was for sale, and sug- gested it continue to be run on ordin- ary theatrical lines until such time as it was advisable to institute a repertory policy. This was _ ulti- mately decided upon, and a local company was formed to take over the theatre. The famous repertory seasons at the Theatre Royal will be reviewed independently of the theatre’s other activities.

Mr. Alfred Wareing, besides being a pioneer in the repertory theatre movement, was an able and experi- enced theatrical manager. He had been business manager for such dis- tinguished players as Sir Frank Ben- son, Sir Herbert Tree, Oscar Asche, and Lily Brayton, being the first person in the country to produce a Tchekhov play in Eng- lish (‘The Seagull,” Glasgow, 1909). Mr. Wareing was the subject of a most delightful G.B.S. postcard as a result of his insistence on Mr. Foster’s obtaining satisfactory refer- ences as to his bona fides. Mr. Shaw’s reply was worded, “No man is altogether truthful or honest, but if you wish to have a pleasant com- panion on the road to destruction you couldn’t have a finer man than Alfred Wareing.”’

The Huddersfield Theatre Royal

re-opened under Mr. Wareing’s

direction on July 29, 1918, for three performances of a rew comic opera entitled ‘‘Carminetta.” The Mayor and Mayoress (Ald. W. H. Jessop and Miss Jessop) were present, and in a short speech during the interval Mr. Wareing promised that with the sup- port of the local public he would

in addition

raise the Theatre Royal to a position from which it would add to the. dignity of the town—a »romise which he more than fulfilled during his thirteen years’ management.

Mr. Wareing secured a Visit to Huddersfield on March 24, 1919, of Julia Neilson and Fred Terry in the French romantic play, “Henry of Navarre.’ Mr. Terry was making his first visit, but his wife had played in ‘Sweet Nell of Old Drury” in 19138. Mr. (now Sir) John Martin- Harvey was seen in a repertoire of plays including “The Burgomaster of Stilemonde,” but although this was his first appearance at the Theatre Royal he had previously visited the Hippodrome.

The theatre was closed for two months during 1919 for the com- pletion of alterations delayed in consequence of the war. The effect of the improvements was to bring the amenities of the theatre into line with those of the best West End houses, and for a long time afterwards it was styled “‘the prettiest theatre in the provinces.” Louis Calvert, a well- known Shakespearean actor who had appeared many times on the Theatre Royal stage, was engaged by Mr. Wareing to inaugurate the new season.

The first of the twelve ‘ Royal” pantomimes was “Dick Whittington and His Cat.” “Chu Chin Chow” (without Oscar Asche) stayed for a fortnight in February, 1920, and during April Herbert Lomas appeared as Abraham Lincoln in John Drink- water’s play of that name. A num- ber of concert parties were engaged during June and July, somewhat to the disappointment of those playgoers who had hoped to see Mr. Wareing inaugurate his repertory policy.

Pavlova and Russian Ballet

To compensate for this disappoint- ment Anna Pavlova, the world’s greatest dancer, gave a _ flying matinee at the theatre on August 24,

Page 34

1920. This “rare event in the artistic life of the town” was re- warded by an_ enthusiastic and crowded house, and in the “ Swan”’ ballet Pavlova revealed the full of her greatness. The great danseuse visited the Theatre Royal on two subsequent occasions (August 23, 1921, and July 27, 1923), and in 1927 she danced with her company at the Town Hall.

Mr. Wareing’s other ballet venture was to bring the Russian Classical Ballet, with Nadejda Nicolaeva in ballets by Tchaikovsky, to the theatre for a week on May 11, 1925. The Russian Ballet, with the Diaghi-

leff including Stanislas Idzi- kovski, Vera Savina and Vanda Evina, gave two performances in

1929, and later Lydia Kyasht also visited the theatre with her ballet entertainment entitled ‘A la Russe.”

The Huddersfield Thespians

When Mr. Wareing first came to Huddersfield he expressed a hope that he would be able to discover a good deal of new talent in the district. In December, 1919, Mr. Wareing appointed a Brighouse man, Mr. James R. Gregson, as acting manager of the Theatre Royal, and a few months later the Hillhouse Higher Element ~y School Old Students’ Union produced a three-act comedy written by Mr. Gregson. He had previously had some of his works produced by the Stockport Gar- rick Society, the first of England’s Little Theatres; and the result of the Hillhous2 production was the forma-

tion of a similar organisation in Huddersfield. A public meeting was held in

Broadbent’s Canteen, Milford Street, on June 9, 1920, with the late Mr. R. Montgomery as_ chairman. Mr. Wareing was one of the speakers, and he promised, if the society were formed, to allow it the use of the Theatre Royal in December. Mr. Gregson moved the resolution that a play-producing society should be formed, and after some discussion regarding the name, “ The Hudders- field Thespians” was decided upon.


a_ veritable

The first production of the new society was given in Greenhead Park on the occasion of Earl Beatty’s visit to the town on July 24, 1920. Since that date the Huddersfield Thespians have never looked back, and today they have a long list of notable pro- ductions to their credit. The name of Mr. Gregson is also known far outside the confines of Brighouse and Hud- dersfield.

When the Carl Rosa Opera Com- pany visited Huddersfield during Sep- tember, 1920, “‘La Boheme ”’ received its first local performance. The beautiful voice and fine presence of Henry Ainley in ‘The Jest” (Nov- ember 29) secured for this famous acting triumph,

Mr. Alfred Wareing

Drastic Sequel

The Wareing ‘‘plums” during 1921 were a Shakespearean dramatic recital by Sir J. Forbes-Robertson; a first performance of ‘La Tosca”;

Page 35

Lady Tree in a matinee perform- ance; and the London Greek Play Company in Greek plays in English. The visit of Miss Violet Vanbrugh to the Theatre Royal on March 13, 1922, in a play entitled “The Knave of Diamonds,” had a rather surpris- ing sequel. The dramatic critic of Huddersfield Examiner,” in his review of the play (a dramatisation of the novel by Ethel M. Dell) de- plored the fact thut an actress of the prestige and talent of Miss Vanbrugh should be touring in such an unworthy vehicle. Both Miss Vanbrugh and Mr. Wareing expressed annoyance at this criticism, and the latter barred the paner’s representative from the theatre for a period.

Shakespeare Festivals

A three weeks’ Shakespeare Festi- val was organised during June, 1922, with a company headed by Alexander Marsh. A special paper, “The Shake- SPEAR” (price one groat), was edited by Mr. Wareing for the festi- val, and in the performance of ‘“ The Winter’s Tale” during the first week his daughter, Lesley, made her stage debut as Mamilius, A second Shakespeare Festival of four weeks’ duration was held the following year (1923) in commemora- tion of the tercentenary of the puk- lication of the First Folio of Shake- speare’s plays. This time the plays were in the hands of Sir Frank Ben- son and his company. In addition to these special seasons both Henry Baynton and Sir Frank Benson fre- quently visited Huddersfield during the ordinary touring seasons.

In October, 1922, a week of Grand Guignol Plays was served to those playgoers who could stand this ‘“‘disn of horror.” Owen Nares visited the theatre in “If Winter Comes,” and the Macdona Players presented a fortnight of Shaw’s plays. The Irish Players, including Sara Allgood, were also seen in works by J. M. Syne and W. B. Yeats; they re-visited the theatre in 1929 with Sean O’Casey’s “Juno and the Paycock” and ‘“ The Plough and the Stars.”


- theatre

“Mrs. Pat’s”* Visit

Mrs, Patrick Campbell was intro- duced to local playgoers in April, 1923. In the sombre German drama “Magda” she played the part in which Sarah Bernhardt frequently appeared, and which incidentally pro- vided her with an opportunity of wearing some remarkable dresses. The other play was ‘“Uplifted” by the French dramatist, Henri Bern- stein. Both Matheson Lang and Vio- let Vanbrugh revisited the theatre, and on this occasion Miss Vanbrugh’s play was described as a ‘ Vaudeville held the stage during the summer, with a visit by ‘The Veterans of Variety,” and a special week’s engagement of J. W. Rowley and Ella Dean. These two _ local favourites also appeared the Christmas pantomime.

Ivor Novello’s only visit. to the (March 31, 1924) was in “The Rat,” a not-too-well contrived play of an apache. A theatrical dis- pute marred the visit of Miss Eva Moore, and a leaflet “battle” tcok place is: Ramsden Street between the Actors’ Association and the Stage Guild. “White Cargo,” the vivid pee of the tropics, was performed for the first time in Huddersfield on October 6, 1924, with Murray Carr- ingtcn as “« Weston.” Exactly a year later the great musical success, ‘‘ No. No, Nanette,” was brought to the theatre.

Moliere and Shaw

~The French Players from _ the State Theatres of Paris visited Hud- derstield in 1924 and 1926 respectively and gave performances of French classics. The company was headed by M. Fresnay, one of the youngest | actors to reach the highest rank at the Comedie Francaise, who later made stage history by appearing at the Theatre Royal in a Pirandelio play in English.

Bernard Shaw’s ‘“ Saint Joan,” with Dorothy Holmes-Gore as “ The Maid,”’ attracted large audiences in 1925, and it was unfortunate that the next visit of the Macdona Players took

Page 36

place during the General Strike. Their visit was notable, however, for the first local public performance of the once banned play, “Mrs. War- ren’s Profession,’ and a five-hour performance of ‘‘Man and Super- man” in its entirety, which included the ‘Don Juan in Hell” scene.

A Fallen Rival

The modernising of the Hudders- field Hippodrome was begun early in 1926 with a view to the presentation of large spectacular shows. ‘The whole of the old stage was taken into the auditorium and a new stage built on property at the rear of the buiid- ing. The alterations were completed in October, and the ‘New Hippo- drome and Opera House ”’ was opened with a twice-nightly musical produc- tion featuring Reg. Bolton. Later several famous musical comedies were staged, including “The Desert Song” and “The Vagabond King,” but in 1980 this theatre became a cinema.

Jose Collins made two appearances at the Theatre Royal on June 14 and 15, 1926, and Oscar Asche was 4 visitor in a new comedy during Sep- tember. The Old Vic Company made the first of two visits to Huddersfield in 1928. The company on the first occasion included Ernest Milton, Eric Portman and Miss Jean Forbes- Robertson; on their second visit in 1929 the leading players were Miss Esme Church, Percy Walsh and John Laurie.


Portrait Presentation

The Theatre Royal was closed for cleaning and redecoration in June, 1928, .durirg which time a remark- able mural painting was executed in the whole space of the proscenium by Mr. William O. Hutchison. The ‘scene of the painting is a fair- ground, and a number of local notabilities, including the then Chief Constable, the directors of the theatre, Mr. Wareing and “ Play- fellow” are depicted in unconven- tional roles.

The last week of the repertory season which followed the reopening

was made the occasion of a benefit fcr Mr. Wareing, and in recognition of his ten years’ work for Hudders- field and the dramatic art he was presented with his portrait (painted by Mr. Hutchiscn) and a cheque for 500 guineas. Harold Samuel, the cele-

brated pianist, added distinction to

the occasion by his brilliant playing. In a short speech of thanks Mr. Wareing revealed the fact that in cnly one year had the receipts at the pay-box been greater than the expenses, and that actually’ the theatre had been kept going out of the profits at the bars and the sale of cigarettes and chocolates.

Holbrooke Opera

Musical histor: was made at the

Huddersfield Theatre Royal on Feb- ruary 1, 1929, with the first perform- ance on any stage of “ Bronwen,” by the Carl Rosa Opera Company. The opera is the third of a trilogy known as “The Cauldron of Annwn,”’ with music by the _ British composer, Josef Holbrooke. The work is richly scored, and the orchestra, under the baton of Claud Powell, numbered sixty-three musicians. The honours of the evening were easily with the orchestra, but all the principals put in fine work. The ballet was above the average of opera dancing, while both costumes and settings were original.

There was a great demonstration at the conclusion of the first perform- ance, but neither the librettist nor the composer could be found. On the Monday following the performance Mr. Holbrooke explained in a letter to the local Press that the reason for his absence was that he had no joy in bowing after a show which he did not recognise, and further that his “elaborate work” required a first- class orchestra, which he found was impossible! This unwarranted crit- icism was refuted both by Mr. Frank Gomez, the musical director of the Theatre Royal, and by Mr. L. Key, the local branch secretary of the Musicians’ Union, and in a further letter Mr. Holbrooke admitted that ne had ‘expressed himself badly.” Con-

Page 37

sidering that the orchestra played to- _gether for the first time on the morn- ing of the production, their perform- ance was all the more remarkable.

After such a promising opening the year 1929 unfortunately proved dis- astrous to local musicians. The “‘ talkies’ came to the town in April, and by the cnd of August half the local musicians had lost their employ- ment. A leaflet was issued by the Musicians’ Union appealing to the public not to patronise “canned music.” At the Theatre Royal Mr. Wareing faced the new situation in the entertainment world by engineer- ing what he described as the biggest “scoop” of all his thirty years as a manager—the world premiere of a Pirandello play. During the autumn he arranged visits of the two very successful plays ‘‘ Young Woodley” and “ Journey’s End.”

* Heathen Huddersfield ”

Mr. Wareing’s enterprise in secur- ing for Huddersfield the second per- formance of Bernard Shaw’s longest play, to Methuselah,” by the Leeds Civic Playhouse, was poorly supported. The news that it had been played to half empty houses made the great ‘“‘G.B.S.” very angry, and in a clever onslaught on the West Riding towns of Huddersfield, Leéds, and Bradford he declared that they all ought to be burned to the ground! “ Huddersfield is plainly in a dark and _ pagan condition,’ stormed Mr. Shaw. “The town has set up for itself a title to infamy and shame. MHence- forth, let Huddersfield be known as ‘Heathen Huddersfield.’ ”’

Hardly was the ink dry on this tirade before Mr. Wareing was in hot water over his production of Gals- worthy’s in a vain attempt to bring about a settlement of the

woollen textile dispute. The workers accused Mr. “Vareing of exploiting the strike, and in a letter to the Borough Member (Mr. J. H. Hudson) Mr. Wareing retorted that he did not know there was such ignorance and prejudice in the Labour Party.

Invitation Declined

When it was realised that the play was failing to achieve its purpose, Mr. Wareing sent a telegram to Mr. Bernard Shaw, who was on holiday at Buxton, appealing to him to visit Huddersfield in an attempt to re- trieve the situation. Mr. Shaw in nis reply was anything but sympathetic, and after admonishing Mr. Wareing for his ‘‘ sheer lunacy” in suggesting that the trade unions had boycotted the play, advised him to cut his loss and put up “East Lynne”! Mr.

: Wareing made a last-minute attempt

to get Mr. Shaw to intervene, but that gentleman very wisely refused to be made a scapegoat.

Dame Sybil Thorndike opened Mr. - Wareing’s last touring season at the theatre on January 26, 1931, appear- ing >.“ Granite” “and “ Matchmaker’s Arms.” The Jubilee of the opening of the Theatre Royal was celebrated on April 13 by the inauguration of the Resident Com- pany, which was the logical outcome of the summer repertory seasons. Another reason for this change of policy was the dearth of touring pro- ductions and the difficulty of obtain- ing suitable plays with which to keep the theatre open. During his man- agement Mr. Wareing succeeded in attracting the best theatrical com- panies to Huddersfield, and no matter what setbacks or disappointments ne suffered he never lost his faith in “The Living Theatre.”

Page 38



WHEN Mr. Alfred Wareing came to Huddersfield in 1918 he had an ambiticus plan for establishing a Yorkshire Repertory Company at the Theatre Royal. During weeks when the theatre would be occupied with touring attracticns it was intended that the company should visit other towns in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Mr. Wareing anticipated forming his company about March, 1919, but un- fortunately his plans for a resident

company at the Huddersfield Theatre |

Royal did not materialise until twelve years later. In the meantime, how- ever, he organised summer repertory seasons which gained the theatre an international reputation. |

From 1921 to 1930 seven repertory seasons were held at the Huddersfield Theatre Royal, five seasons being given bv Mr. Wareing’s own com- panies and one each by the Hull Repertory Theatre Company and the Masque Theatre Company. The length of the seasons varied from the first one of twelve weeks to the last one of four weeks. Two of the were devoted solely to inter- national masterpieces by Tchekhov, Ibsen, Gogol, Pirandello, Brieux, Romains and Jennsen, our own country being represented by Gais- worthy. Bernard Shaw heads: the list of lays produced with a tota: of geven, while the late Luigi Piran- dello, the Italian dramatist, is nex: with four plays, one of which was produced for the first time on any stage. Three Tchekhov plays were presented, and John Masefield’s “ The

Which had been successes in other towns failed to attract audiences in Huddersfield. At the end of the first “Royal” Repertory Season in 1921, which incidentally had to be extended by two weeks, making a total of twelve weeks, despite acute trade Je- pression and a prolonged heat wave, Mr. Wareing was able to announce that there was a public for repertory.

The season opened with Shaw’s comedy, “You Never Can Tell,” tfol- lowed by ‘‘ Mary Goes First,” Henry Arthur Jones’s comedy of manners, with Miss Aimee Kemball taking the part of “Mary Whichello.” In “ The Gay Lord Quex” Miss Irene Van- brugh appeared in her original role of Sophie Fullgarney, and Lady Tree was engaged for ‘‘ His Excellency tine Governor.” The production of ‘‘ The Tragedy of Nan” was so successful that it was revived for the last week of the season. Shaw was further

represented with ‘‘Arms and the Man” and “Man and Superman,”’ and Galsworthy by “Strife.” During

the season the interesting innovation

Tragedy of Nan” was revived on noe |

fewer than three occasions.

Breaking The Ice

Until. Mr. Wareing came to Hud- dersfield the tcwn was looked upon

as a “dud” date in the theatrical world. While it was not true, as Mr. St. John Ervine, the dramatic

critic, once stated, that Huddersfield contained ‘“‘more ignorant people to the square mile than any other town in the country excepting Hampstead,”’ it was an established fact that plays

was made of a free gallery, but it was noticeable that old galleryites gave place to what could only be described as a “Repertory

During the summer of 1922 anda 1923 Mr. Wareing organised Shake- speare Festivals, and his next excur- sion into repertory was made on July 6, 1925, and extended _ until August 15. By way of a prelude the Huddersfield Thespians produced at the theatre Karel Capek’s robot play,

“R.U.R.,” and the American ex- pressionist drama, “The Adding Machine.” Both the opening week

and the closing week were devoted to Shaw ‘plays (‘‘ Widowers’ Houses”’ and “You Never Can while time was also found for ‘The Man of Destiny.” The highlight of the sea- son was the appearance of Herbert Lomas in his original part of ‘‘ John Bowyer” in Brighouse’s eomedy ‘‘Mary’s John.” Mr. Ware- ing was again unfortunate, for a dis- pute took place in the textile trade during the latter part of July.

Page 39

Beyond Compare

The first International Master- pieces Season was held during 1926, the year of the General Strike and the long coal dispute. In the selection of plays no concession was made to ”’ taste, and the aim was aa- mittedly high. The repertoire for the five weeks was as follows:

“The Seagull,” by Anton Tchekhov “The Wild Duck,” by Henrik Tbsen.

“The Government Inspector,” by Nikolai Gogol. “Tt’s the Truth if you Think it 1s,” by Luigi Pirandello. “The Cherry Orchard,’ by Anton Tchekhov. |

The Huddersfield public came out of its first experience of Tchekhov and Pirandello much better than did the specialised audiences of London. ‘The Cherry Orchard ”’ was probably the most popular of the five plays, and the acting of both Evelyn Dane and Alan Napier in this Russian masterpiece was a memorable experi- ence. ‘The Government Inspector ” was the least successful, while ‘“ The Seagull” appeared to puzzle part of the audience. The performance of the Pirandello play was the first to he given in the provinces. Miss Marion Fawcett was responsible for the pro- duction, and all the plays were inter- preted by an excellent company in a manner worthy of their greatness.

A Great Occasion

The second International Master- pieces Season was an even greater triumph for Mr. Wareing, for during the fifth week M. Pierre Fresnay, ex- Societaire of the Comedie Francaise, appeared in another Pirandello play, this being the first time in the history of the British stage that a French actor of the highest rank had per- formed before an English audience

‘in their native tongue.

Miss Fawcett was again entrusted with the production, and the season

opened. with “Uncle Vanya” (Tchek-


hov), followed by ‘‘ Damaged Goods,”’ a purposeful play on a burning social question by the French dramatist, Eugene Brieux. Then came “ Win- dows,” by John Galsworthy, and ‘“Dector Knock,” 2 humorous French play by cules Romains.

M. Fresnay was no stranger to Huddersfield, having visited the Theatre Royal on two previous occa- sions with the French Players.’ He

was then a Societaire of the Comedie

Francaise, but in 1926 he resigned as a protest against some action by the French Cabinet Minister responsible for the conduct of the State theatres. On the day following his arrival] in Huddersfield M. Fresnay was the guest of the late Alderman J. A. Woolven and about twenty prominent local citizens at luncheon in the Town Hall. The toast of ‘French drama’’ was proposed by Mr. E. Woodhead, to which M. Fresnay re- plied in fluent English.

The “first of the Piran- dello play, Game As He Played It,” with Fresnay in the role of the husband, took place on August 1, 1927, and was given a tremendous reception.

The last play of the season, ‘‘ The Witch,” by Wiers Jennsen (translated by John Masefield), was after the Fresnay week the most outstanding play. Mr. Robert Donat, who is now so well known by his fine acting on the screen, played the young lover in excellent style. All the plays were beautifully mounted, and the season was without question the finest work accomplished by Mr. Wareing during the whole of his management of the Theatre Royal.

The repertory season of 1928 coin- cided with the tenth anniversary of

Mr. Wareing’s direction of the Theatire

Royal, and the last week was set aside by the directors for his benefit.

G.B.S. again set the ball rolling with

“Major Barbara,’ and this was fol-

lowed by Sutton Vane’s_ original study of the theme cf life after death, Bound.” The

other plays were: “The Thunder- bolt,” by Sir Arthur W. Pinero; “R.U.R.,” by Karel Capek; and the

Page 40

delightful A. A. Milne comedy, ‘“ To Have The Honour.”’. Miss Madge Mc- Intosh, who had been associated with Mr. Wareing at Glasgow, produced the plays. The artists included Mr. Henry Latimer, Mr. Lloyd Pearson, and Mr. Richard Caldicott, while Miss Celia Johnson made her stage debut in ‘Major Barbara.”

World Premiere

Instead of assembling his own com- pany, Mr. Wareing engaged the Hull Repertory Theatre Company, under the direction of Mr. Arthur R. What- more, to give an eight weeks’ season in Huddersfield during 1929. Ever on the look-out for something differ- ent, Mr. Wareing secured a new Pirandello play which had not even been produced in the author’s own country. The title of the play, (or ‘‘ Lazarus’’) was not considered sufficiently interpretative, and a competition was held for a title which would convey the full meaning to English audiences. Over 700 sug- gestions were submitted, and the chosen title was taken from St. Luke, XVI., 31, ‘Though One Rose—”

The world premiere took place on Monday, July 8, 1929, with a cast including Mr. Donald Wolfit, Mr. Andre van Gyseghem, Miss Edith Sharpe, Miss May Collie and Miss E. Laura Webster. The performance was witnessed by the leading drama- tic critics in the country and also by two Italian journalists, and_ the general verdict was that while it was not Pirandello at his best, ue play had moments of great and dramatic intensity.

The Hull Repertory Theatre Com- pany were a brilliant team of all- round artists, and whether the play was old English comedy such as “The Rivals” or tragedy like ‘“ The Tragedy of Nan,” their acting was of the same high standard. In _ the latter Miss Edith Sharpe gave a per- formance that demanded much emotional intensity, as was plainly evident when she came _ before the curtain. at the conclusion of the play. The same also applied to


her acting in ‘‘ Granite.” The season concluded with “Belinda,” by A. A. Milne, in which Miss Sharpe ap- peared in Irene Vanbrugh’s part.

The last summer repertory season at the Theatre Royal was undertaken for Mr. Wareing by the Masque Theatre Company, in association with

Mr. Robert Fenemore of the Lyceum

Theatre, Edinburgh. The season was abruptly terminated after only four weeks in consequence of poor sup- port, which was mainly due to the textile dispute and Mr. Wareing’s un- fortunate experience with “ Strife.”

The first week was devoted to Bar- rie's “Dear Brutus,” in which the beautiful role of the dream child was most charmingly played by Miss Les- ley Wareing. Pirandello’s “ play within a play, “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” was presented during the last week, the production being in the capable hands of Mr. James R. Gregson, who had also pro- duced the first two plays.

“The Chance Of A Lifetime ”

“ Huddersfield, which has often led the way in important movements, is about to have an opportunity of show- ing the rest of England what can be done with its Theatre.’ With these words Mr. Wareing introduced the important change of policy which it had been decided to inaugurate on April 13, 1931, to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the opening of the Theatre Royal. On this date a resi- dent company was to enter into pos- session of the theatre and to present a handsome production of Shake- speare’s You Like It,” just as fifty years before the theatre had been opened with the selfsame play.

A most ambitious programme was outlined by Mr. Wareing. “As You Like It” was to continue until April 22. and to be followed by an entirely new play, “Sister Angela,” by A. M. Thompson and Reginald Arkell, which Mr. Robert Courtneidge had promised to produce. A Pirandello

Page 41

play wag promised, with Miss Flor- ence Kahn (wife of Sir Max Beer- bohm) in the leading role. The Reside1.t Company was to be joined by distinguished guest artists so far as their engagements’ permitted, promises having been received from Miss Mary Newcomb, Miss Sybil Thorndike. Mr, Lewis Casson, Mr. Henry Ainley and others. The Christmas pantomime was also to be presented by the Resident Company, with music specially composed by Mr. Frank Gomez, the musical director of the theatre, and both musical shows and ‘latest London successes ’’ were promised local play- ecers.

The. Resident Company consisted of over twenty-five artists, the names including Miss Dorothy Holmes-Gore, Miss Katherine Hynes, Miss Stella Wyngate, Miss Jean Stewart, Messrs. Evan John, Henry Cass, Donald Eccles, Charles Cornock, Robert Eddi- son and Cyril Grier, with Mr. Val Cuthbert in control of the stage. The aim of the company was all-round excellence, with no stars, but playing “as cast.” Drastic cuts were made in the charges of admission to the theatre, the new prices ranging from 4d. to 3s. 6d. Local playgoers were warned that the heavier expenses of running the Resident Company could be met only by “full houses” at every performance. A local ‘‘ Theatre Guild ’’ was formed previous to the inauguration of the Company, with the object of ‘‘creating a closer understanding between player «nd playgoer.”’

Theatre Jubilee

The Jubilee performance of “As You Like It” left no doubt about the acting abilities of the Resident Com- pany. The audience included three old playgoers who had been present at the opening of the theatre, one man occupying his original seat in the gallery. “Sister Angela” was presented on April 23, with Miss Hilda Bayley in the title role. The third production was ‘“ Nothing put


the Truth,” preceded by Pirandello’s one act play of Remem- brance.”’

For the visit of Miss Florence Kahn on.May 11 a triple bill was arranged. The performance began with “In The Zone,” by Eugene O’Neill. This was followed by the first performance in English of the famous Pirandello play, “The Life I Gave You,’ with Miss Kahn as ‘“‘ Donn’ Anna.” The evening concluded with a Tchekhov farce en- titled ‘‘ The Anniversary.” The next two productions were “ The Lilies of the Field’ and “ Secrets.” On June 1, in commemoration of the 500th anni- versary of the martyrdom of Joan of Are, the Resident Company presented “Saint Joan.”

The attendances at the theatre dur- ing the first two months of the Resi- dent Company unfortunately made it necessary for a change of policy, and from June 8 two different plays were presented each evening, the order of the plays being reversed each week. This was continued until July 11, when Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever” was given its final performance after which the Resident Company was dis- banded and the Theatre Royal closed sine die. On August 6 Mr. 'Wareing announced his resignation.

A Lost Opportunity

several work

In years

looking back over on Mr. Wareing’s at the Huddersfield Theatre Royal it should be remembered that his summer. repertory sea- sons took place during what in for- mer years had been the recog- nised theatre vacation. The summer months, with their many outdoor dis- tractions, are not ideal for playgoing, even though the fare was of a unique order. The costly nature of this preparatory work can be de- fended on the grounds that it was paving the way for the adoption of a permanent repertory policy such as was eventually inaugurated by the Resident Company.

Page 42

Unfortunately Mr. Wareing was unable to kill the false legend that he was out to “educate” the public, and that good drama must neces- sarily be poor entertainment. It was a psychological blunder to produce “Sister Angela” so early in the season, and if the order of plays had been reversed 23nd Noel Coward’s sprightly comedy had followed “ As You Like It,’ the chances of the Resident Company surviving would have been much stronger.


Mr. Wareing’s work in Hudders- field will long remain unchallenged in the provincial theatre. That Hud- dersfield did not rise to the occasion and assist him to establish a per- manent repertory theatre will always redound to her discredit. The town not only missed ‘The Chance Of A Lifetime ’”’ but. very nearly lost its theatre as a punishment.

Page 43

-home at the Hippodrome.



ee the departure of Mr. Alfred Wareing from the Huddersfield Theatre Royal the directors were faced with the problem of meeting the rather large deficit which had accumulated. Consideration was given to the offer of a cinema syndi- cate to purchase the property, but largely through the efforts of Mr. W. D. Foster, of Brighouse, the theatre was saved for the living drama. It was re-opened on September 14, 1931, with a twice-nightly musical comedy, and this new policy was continued for the next few months, with occa- sional once-nightly productions.

On May 2, 1932, the first Denville Stock Company opened an eighteen weeks’ season at the Theatre Royal. The management of the old Hippo- drome had first introduced the Den- ville Players to local audiences during the summer of 1927, and they had proved immensely popular. In a brief “first night” speech at the

Theatre Royal, Mr. Alfred Denville

expressed his regret that it was not possible to bring the old favourites back to Huddersfield without disturb- ing his existing companies, but promised to-do his best in this direc- tion another year.

Mr. Denville’ was true to his promise, for the Denville Stock Com- pany which occupied the Theatre Royal for twenty-four weeks during 1933 included both Mr. Alfred B. Kennedy and Miss Betty Carter. An interesting production this season was “Bill’s o’ Jack’s,” a play based on the terrible tragedy at the old Moor Cock Inn.

The touring productions at the Theatre Royal during the autumn of

1932 included Julian Wylie’s present-

ation of J. B. Priestley’s “The Good.

Companions,’ and Noel Coward’s ‘“ Bitter Sweet.” “The Desert Song ”’ was also given its first production at the Theatre Royal by the Hudders- field Amateur Operatic Society on November 14, 1932, for previously this famous musical comedy had made its A new

departure in local entertainment was the first broadcast of an excerpt from a revue at the Palace Theatre on April 13, 1933.

Popular Players

In 1934 Mr. Alfred Kennedy entered into management on his own account, and with a company which included such local favourites as Miss Ronnay Courson, Miss Newsome McCormack, Mr. Kenneth Broadbent and Mr. Barry Cameron opened at the Theatre Royal on March 26 in a revival of ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan.” Other plays presented by “The Kennedy Players” included “Kight Bells,” “Madame X,” “The Brontes,” and an up-to-date version of the evergreen musical play, ‘“ My Sweetheart.” Mr. Kennedy’s excur- sion into management proved so suc- cessful that he was engaged to open at the Theatre Royal immediately after the termination of the panto- mime on January 12, 1935, and with the exception of two weeks for the iccal amateur operatic societies his company occupied the stage through- out the year. This was the longest run of any Stock Company in Hud- dersfield, either at the Theatre Royal

- or at the Hippodrome.

Although “ The Kennedy Players ’ had by no means outstayed their wel- come, the directors of the Theatre Royal resolved upon a change for 1936, and neither Mr. Kennedy nor Miss Courson was invited to join “The Theatre Royal Players,” which were subsequently formed. The new company, however, included some of the members of Mr. Kennedy’s com- pany, and also Mr. Edward W. Waddy, from the Manchester Reper- tory Theatre, Miss Hilary Meadows and Miss Gabrielle Day.

_The opening performance tock place on January 20, 1936. The fol- lowing evening the theatre was closed in consequence of the death of King George V._ Later this month disaster

Page 44


overtook the Palace Theatre, which |

was completely destroyed by fire on the evening of January 23. Not- withstanding that the Theatre Roya! was now the only “ living theatre” in the town, the plays presented by the new company failed to attract re- munerative audiences, and the cur- tain was rung down for what many

believed would prove to be the last

time. The engagements of the staff were terminated, and June 6, 1956, was indeed a black day in the annals of the local stage.

Municipal Theatre Proposal

Again it was left to a Brighouse man. (albeit a Huddersfield citizen) to make the first move to save the Theatre Royal. Mr. James R. Greg- son, now a member of the Borough Council, moved a mction at the June meeting that the Finance Committee should appoint a special sub-com- mittee to inquire into the present theatrical position in the town and make recommendaticns as to the establishment of a municipally-owned and controlled theatre or similar scheme. There was only a brief dis- cussion on the motion. which was carried by a large majority. The sub-committee held one or two meet- ings, but was faced with the difficulty that the Corporation had no powers to enter into any form of theatrical enterprise.

New Proprietors

When all hope of saving the theatre had been abandoned, the an- nouncement was made that Mr. Jack Gladwin and Mr. Charles Macdona were taking over the property on a long lease, and later they became the owners. Mr. Gladwin is the proprie- tor of the new Theatre Royal at Norwich, and Mr. Macdona’s stage associations have already been noted. Their policy for Huddersfield was stated to be first-class musical shows, light operas and good variety. Be- fore the theatre was reopened on August 31 with a variety bill headed by Miss Nellie Wallace, a consider-

able sum of money was expended on interior renovations, while the facade was outlined with Neon lighting.

Sir Harry Lauder made his first visit to Huddersfield on October 19, 1936. Prince Littler’s London Coli- seum production of ‘‘ White Horse Inn,” with revolving stage and com- pany of over 100 artists, remained at the theatre for two weeks in Novem- ber. On February 22, 1937, Dame Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson appeared in a new version of the Tod- puddle Martyrs play, “Six Men of Dorset.” A four weeks’ season of “West End Plays” by J. Baxter Somerville’s company was tried dur- ing the summer. :

More Stock Companies

From May, 1938, until November, 1940, the stage of the Huddersfield Theatre Royal was shared between concert parties and repertory com- panies. The introduction of Jimmy Hunter and his Brighton Follies for a four weeks’ season in May, 1938, was not at first a success, but they soon won their way into the _ public’s affections, with the result that subse- quent visits were well supported. The first return visit was made in October, 1938, while the following year their season extended over ten weeks. During 1940 visits of eight and six weeks were made respect- ively.

In their: selection of repertory com- panies the new proprietors of the theatre were not quite so successful. Len Laurie and Miss Marjorie Den- ville enjoyed a run of sixteen weeks during 1938. After eight weeks in 1939 the Regency Players were de- posed by the Brookfield Players, who remained at the theatre for sixteen weeks and were playing when war was declared and all places of enter- tainment were closed by order of the Home Office. Finally Len Laurie and Miss Denville were invited to re- turn to the theatre during 1940, and their eighteen weeks’ season was again highly successful.

Page 45

The “Stars” Come To Town

The mass air attack on London

during August and September, 194(.

closed the majority of the West End theatres, with the result that many famous “stars” found themselves compelled to tour the provinces or be out of work. As “No. 1” bookings are not sufficient to carry them round the year they have turned to towns like Huddersfield for dates. In quick succession Huddersfield received visits from Mary Clare, Vic Oliver, Beatrice Lillie, Emlyn Williams and Tom Walls, and crowds. flocked to the theatre to welcome them.

The present year (1941) has been no less auspicious. From their tem- porary home in Burnley have come the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company and the Old Vic Company. Tom Walls has made a return visit, and after a lapse of fifteen years the


D’Oyly Carte Opera Company pro- vided a week of Gilbert and Sullivan

operas. Ballet has been presented by the Anglo-Polish Ballet. Other visitors have included Winifred

Shotter, Ralph Lynn, Diana Churchill, Jean Forbes-Robertson and Owen Nares.

The Diamond Jubilee of the Huda- dersfield Theatre Royal could not have been celebrated under happier circumstances. During the past ten years the theatre has carried on a grim fight against ever-increasing odds, and that it has survived is in a large measure due to the splendid efforts of the several repertory com- panies. The visits of world-famous companies and equally famous players during recent months is in it- self a fine reward, and enables the theatre to go forward to its centen- ary with every prospect of surpass- ing its glorious past.

Page 46



—<< |= ——________

M® ALFRED WAREING not only assisted in the formation of the Huddersfield Thespians, the use of the Theatre Royal for cer- tain of their productions. From 1920 to 1931 the Thespians staged eleven full-length plays at the theatre, four being presented for a full week’s run.

The first three Thespian plays at the Theatre Royal were all by Sir J. M. Barrie. ‘“ Quality Street,” the third production of the Society and the first at the theatre, was given for one performance only on December 15, 1920. The production possessed the genuine Barrie flavour, and the settings were really beautiful. The part of Valentine Brown, the hero, was played by Mr. J. R. Gregson, while Phoebe, the younger of the two sisters of “‘ Quality Street,’ was ad- mirably portrayed by Miss Andrea Woolner.

Bernard Shaw’s banned play, Mrs. Warren’s Profession,’”’ had been pro- duced three times by Mr. Wareing at the Glasgow Repertory Theatre, and on March 22, 1921, he produced it with a cast consisting of members of the Huddersfieid Thespians for their subscribers in the Milford Hall.

More Barrie Plays

Three years elapsed before the Thespians again ventured to appear at the Theatre Royal. This time Brutus” held the stage for three nights (December 10-12, 1923), and was declared by many to be an even finer preduction than ‘“ Quality Street.” Important parts were played by Mr. H. C. Calvert (Mr. Dearth), Mr. J. R. Gregson (Lob), Mrs. Hilda Chilton (Joanna) and Miss Madge Beaumont (Lady Caroline}, while Miss Eleanor Fleming was a charming dream child. Miss Beatrice A. Beard was the producer.

“What Every Woman Knows” was the first play to be presented by the Huddersfield Thespians for four consecutive nights (December 15-18,

but offered

1924). This Barrie comedy always offers casting difficulties, but they were handsomely surmounted by the Society. Mr. H. P. K. Robinson gave a well-studied performance as John Shand, and Miss Beard played Maggie Wylie with quiet, telling restraint. The production, particularly the election crowds, were well managed by Mr. E. Newman Chilton.

Mr. J. R. Gregson

Outstanding Work

The second of Mr. Wareing’s sum- mer repertory seasons at the Theatre Royal in 1925 was preceded by two remarkable Thespian productions. Karel Capek’s thrilling play ‘“ R.U.R.”’ had been introduced to local audi- ences by the Thespians at the Tem- perance Hall earlier in the year, and

Page 47

there had been a general demand for it to be put on a more adequate stage with modern theatre accessories. Mr. Gregson’s production at the Theatre Royal reached a high standard of artistry, and in addition he gave a wonderful performance as Alquist. Other members of the cast included Mrs. © H. = Chilton, Mr: Quarmby and Mr. Stanley Charles- worth.

The robot play was followed with Elmer Rice’s gripping drama “ The Adding Machine.” Mr. Gregson again scored a double triumph in acting and production, the “brainstorm” scene being a magnificent piece of work. While the two plays aroused some controversy, the “hespians were highly praised for their courage in tackling these unique works. ‘“ They have done nothing better,” was the general verdict.

During December of the same year Sir Arthur W. Pinero’s charming fable, ‘The Enchanted Cottage,” was played at the Theatre Royal, the act- ing honours being shared by Mr. Robinson and Mr. Calvert. A year later (1926) ‘“ The Voysey Inherit- ance,” by H. Granville-Barker, waz presented for the first time in Hud- dersfield. Mr. S. Charlesworth acted the part of young Edward Voysey, and Mr. EK. E. Hirst, as the elder Mr. Voysey, was both vigorous and éon- vincing.

A Grand Finale

The Thespians were absent frorn

the theatre for the next three years (1927-1929), but during their eleventh season (1930-31) they were respon- sible for four plays, each being put on for a week’s performances. The first play was W. Somerset Maug- ham’s comedy of bad manners, “The Circle,” in which Miss Doreen Birken- shaw made her debut with the


and Mrs. Hilda Chilton.

On February 9, 1931, the Thespians staged a revival of ‘“‘ Hindle preceded by Barrie’s war play, “ The Old Lady Shows Her Medals.” The season was brought to a successful conclusion with ‘ The Infinite Shoe- black,” a play in three acts by Nor- man Macowan. This production was notable for some very fine acting, particularly by Mr. F. R. Quarmby It was also the last time the Society were allowed the use of the Theatre Royal.

Following the resignation of Mr. Wareing from the theatre on August 6, 1931, the Thespians adopted a re- solution expressing appreciation of his work for “the living theatre.” Mr. Wareing never regarded the Thes-

pians as-merely “good. amateurs,’

Society. The next production was A. -

A. Milne’s “The Ivory Door,” in which the right note of fantasy was set by Mr. H. P. K. Robinson and Mr. Jack Haigh.

but by allowing them the use of the town’s theatre he encouraged the members to realise to the full both acting and producing abilities. Good advantage was certainly taken of the facilities thus afforded, and their Several productions could not have been surpassed by any professional company. Let us hope that when times are again normal the Thespians will make a welcome reappearance at the Theatre Royal.


Laying of cornerstone of Theatre OA 5 sk wae <a A 10, Theatre Royal opened ... Apl.11, First Visit of Carl Rosa Opera

1880 1881

55 19: First pantomime, “Jack the - Giant. Killer ” ...Dec. 24, 1881

Sir Julius Benedict conducted “The Grand Duchess”—Mar. 9, Personal appearance of Wilson soe A, ee Personal appearance of Ben Greet. (Sir Philip)...May 25, Personal appearance of George ee iy seas la ee Mr. (Sir) Henry J. Wood ducted “Cinderella”...Sept. 19, First visit of “ Charley’s Aunt” June 10, Personal appearance of Mr. and Nis, ics Mar. 23, Theatre closed for reconstruction

Apl. 7,

1885 1887 1891 1892 1892 1895 1896 1900

Page 48

Re-opening of theatre by Arthur Roberts ; aber, 186% First Performance of “The Sam- Whit Monday, May 27, 1901 Personal appearance of Mr. (Sir) F. R. Benson ...Nov. 27, 1905 Personal appearance of Miss Ellen. Terry sc Nov. 16, 1908 First twice-nightly play...Apl. 29, 1912 Personal appearance of Mr. (Sir) Seymour Hicks .. ...Oct. a 1912 Personal appearance of Mis Julia Neilson ... ... ... Jan. OT, 19138 Death of J. A. Love, first pro- prietor of Theatre Royal

Aug. 8, 1913 First visit of Pan” Oct. 20, 1913 Personal Appearanoe of Matheson Lang seedy &, 1915 First performance of “Madame Butterfly”...Dec. 8, 1916

_ Personal appearance of Albert Chevalier.. , Oct. 8, 1917 Mr. A. Wareing appointed man- aging Sn re-

opened . July 29, 1918 Personal appearance ‘of Fred Terry. ..Mar. 24, 1919

Personal appearance ¢ of ‘Mr. (Sir) John Martin-Harvey...Apl. 28, 1919 Flying matinee by Anna Pavlova

Aug. 24, 1920 Personal! appre a= of Henry Ainley .... ..Nov. 29, 1920

First production ‘at theatre by Hudd. Thespians... ...Dec. 15, 1920 Personal appearance of Sir J. Forbes-Robertson .... Jan. 25, 1921 First local performance of “La

Tosca ” oh Heb. 11, 1921 Personal appearance of Lady T ..Mar. 29, 1921

ree.. Opening of first summer reper- tory season... ... .;. ...June 6, 192] First visit of the Trish Players

June 5, 1922 Personal appearance of Owen feu aes dee, .4, 1922 Personal appearance of Mrs. Patrick Campbell ... ... Apl. 1923 Personal appearance of Ivo Novello ... .. . Mar. “31, 1924 First visit of the French Players Dec. 16, 1924 Visit of the Russian Classical Ballet . May 11, 1925


Personal appearance of Miss Jose .....: June 14, Opening of first International Masterpieces Season...July 19, Personal appearance of Oscar Asche... .. Sept. 13, Personal appearance ‘of M. Fres- nay in Pirandello play in English... . Aug. 1, Visit of Italian Marionettes Apl. 2, 1928 First Visit of Old Vic Company June 4, 1928 Mr. Wareing’s “Benefit” week Aug. 20, 1928 Presentation of portrait and testimonial fund to Mr. Wareing .. sae, 10, World premiere of “ Bronwen ” Feb. 1. World premiere of ‘ Lazzaro” July 8, Flying visit of Russian Ballet (with Diaghileff stars) Aug. 10, Leeds Civic Playhouse presents “Back to Methuselah ” May 5, 1930 Personal appearance of Dame Sybil Thorndike... ... Jan. 26 1931

1926 1926 1926


1928 1929 1929


Opening performance of Resi- dent Company (Theatre Jubilee) . Apl. 13,1931 Last performance ‘by Resident Company a J uly 11, 19381 Resignation of Mr. Wareing Aug. 6, 1931 Opening of first Denville Stock Company .. >... May 2,.1932 Mr. J. Gladwin and Mr. C. Macdona acquire theatre July 4, 1936 Personal appearance of Sir Farry: Lauger. as) Oct. 19, 1936 First visit of the Brighton Follies . ..May 2 1938

Personal appearance of ‘George : Robey ... ; . Sept. .26, 1938 Personal appearance of Vic Oliver and Beatrice Lillie

Nov. 23, 1940 Personal appearance of Emlyn Williams... .. 1940 Personal appearance of Tom Walls . ui . Dec. 9, 1940 Personal appearance “of Ralph Lynn ... ..Mar. Pot, 1941

sage” iin) ‘ae

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