The Standard Theatre of Victorian England

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Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1993 - Performing Arts - 360 pages
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This is the first major study of the Douglass family of England and the institution of the National Standard Theatre. It includes an examination of the theatrical aesthetics of the mid-Victorian theatre and the methods used by the Douglasses to achieve their success, as well as biographical material on a number of the actors and actresses and on the Douglass family itself.
The National Standard Theatre was located in Shoreditch, in east London, and stood very near to the site of Shakespeare's original Theatre. First built in 1835 and then rebuilt three times, it remained at that location until 1939. Between 1851 and the theatre's end, it was one of the largest theatres in the world, holding more than five thousand patrons. Under the management of the Douglass family from 1848 to 1889, records of several kinds were set, such as attendance and box office success, and achievement in quality and staging was reached.
The Douglasses were considered among the top theatre managers of the mid-Victorian period, providing thousands of patrons a week with the best dramas, actors, and productions of the period. Favorites of the East End audiences were James Anderson, Mrs. Robert Honner, Samuel Phelps, and Miss Glyn. Dion Boucicault and Charles and Ellen Kean also appeared, as well as George Washington "Pony" Moore and his Christy Minstrels. Sims Reeves with his operas in English were summer fixtures at the Standard.
Christmas pantomimes were critical to the financial health of the Victorian theatres, and the Standard's were usually considered to be magnificent, especially the Douglass pantomimes, which were always rated among the top two or three in the city. Richard Douglass, the family scene designer, was one of the principal scenic artists of England between 1870 and 1910. His studio provided settings for many theatres throughout the country as well as all of the settings required in the family business.
The last chapters of this work detail the surprising naturalistic staging techniques that were developed after 1879. These included railway trains on tracks, ocean liners, real water scenes on rivers and ocean shores, fox hunts with a real "trained" fox, hounds and riders on horseback taking the hedges, plus horse races and a multitude of other effects of the type that later became part of the cinema.
This book is illustrated with pictures of the people, settings, and architecture associated with the National Standard Theatre. In addition, there are some of the original watercolor scene designs painted by Richard Douglass himself, including a moving panorama showing change of place, weather, and time; two back cloths or act drop designs; and a number of scenic views of the British countryside as designs for dioramas or stage settings.
  

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Contents

THE ROYAL STANDARD THEATRE 1835
29
JOHN DOUGLASS BECOMES PROPRIETOR
49
THE FOUNDATIONS 18501853
65
STARS ARRIVE IN THE EAST
81
THE STANDARD BECOMES A MAJOR THEATRE
95
EVENTS AND PERSONALITIES 18561860
111
MISS MARRIOTT AND THE END OF AN ERA
127
RECOVERY THEN DESTRUCTION 18641866
149
HEROINES IMPERILED 18751880
215
SENSATION SCENES
245
FINAL BURST OF ENERGY 18831886
273
A DARK SECRET 18861889
301
EPILOGUE ADVENTURES WITH A TANK
317
THE DOUGLASS FAMILY
344
PLAYS BY DOUGLASS
345
BIBLIOGRAPHY
352

THE NATIONAL STANDARD THEATRE 18671871
165
A PERIOD OF TRANSITION 18711874
189

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