Press Clippings for the week ending
Saturday, 13 September 2008

A random selection of clippings
from newspapers and magazines

Mdlle. Lillian and 'Beauty' star in a
touring production of Mazeppa,
Prince of Wales's Theatre, Glasgow,
September 1871

Mdlle. Lillian (fl. late 1860s/early 1870s), equestrienne and actress

(photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, circa 1869)

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

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Amy Sheridan takes a dip
in the Thames, July 1877

Amy Sheridan

Amy Sheridan (1838-1878), English burlesque actress,
as Orestes in F.C. Burnand's extravaganza version of Offenbach's
La Belle Hélène,
which was produced at the Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, on 16 August 1873

(photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, 1873)

'On Wednesday last, as Miss Amy Sheridan was entertaining a boat from Truss's Island, on the Thames, between Staines and Laleham, she fell into the water. The river is here very deep, and a gentleman at once jumped in to her assistance. By this time she had sunk twice, and both were nearly exhausted when Mr. Preston, of Staines, succeeded, after much difficulty, in getting them to the shore.'
(Reynolds's Newspaper, London, Sunday, 15 July 1877, p. 4b)

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Yvette Guilbert interviewed,
New York, 1901

Yvette Guilbert

Yvette Guilbert (1868/69-1944), French singer and entertainer

(photo: Camus, Paris, circa 1902)

'Yvette Guilbert's New House - Also More Songs Like Those Which Have Enriched Her.
'From The London King.
'Out of the earnings of her music-hall career Yvette Guilbert has built for herself a gorgeous residence on the Boulevard Berthier. The house is a large white stone building, built from blocks extracted from the famous quarries at St. Denis. From the outside the hotel discloses the identity of its fair occupant, for the main feature of the corbet of the drawing-room window is the head of the singer smiling at the passerby.
'From The London Pall Mall Gazette.
'When Mme. Yvette Guilbert reached London from Paris last night she kindly granted the reporter of The Pall Mall Gazette the pleasure of being the first to see her. '''What are you going to ask me?'' she queries. ''It is a long time since I have been in England, but I have never forgotten a pretty English miss-journalist who asked me if our Parisian music halls were as proper as your English ones, and if I was going to dress decently. I gravely informed her that I was going to appear in tights simply, with a large hat and a walking stick. And, from her looks, she believed me. So you, you do not want to know how I shall appear? You want something about my repertoire?
'''In the first place, I have 'La Légende de Saint-Nicholas,' by poor gifted Gérard de Nerval, the promising young poet who died of consumption at thirty. The theme is a quaint and pathetic one. A butcher murders his three children, cuts up their bodies, and casts them into the salt tub. St. Nicholas comes by, is hungry, and asks the murderer for something to eat. The latter inquires what he would like. Nicholas, pointing to the salt tub, replies, 'Give me some of what you have in there.' The butcher, terrified, obeys in spite of himself. On his going to the tub the children emerge from it alive; the Saint has performed a miracle. Of course, the butcher repents, and le bon Dieu pardons him. '''Another of my songs, my best one in fact, is called 'Ma tête.' It tells of a tramp whose habitat is in the fortifications of Paris. He boasts of the Hooliganism - for he is really a French Hooligan - of his conquests of the fair sex, for he is, in his opinion, a lady-killer. After a narrative of his nocturnal exploits he prognosticates the inevitable end in the following gruesome lines:

Fatal'ment j s'rai condamné,
Car y s'ra prouvé qu' j'assassine,
Faudra que j'attende, blame et vané
Jusqua e' qu'enfin on m'guillotine.
Alors un beau jour on m'dira:
'C'est pour ce matin * * * faites vot' toilette.
Je sortirni * * * la foule saluera
Ma tete!'

'''When singing this song I wear the casquette in favor with ces Messieurs des fortifications. At the end of the last stanza I drop the cap on the stage, thus representing, in a horribly dramatic manner, the head falling into the basket of the guillotine. It makes one shudder. Catulle Mendès says that the conception of this piece of 'business' is an 'id-e tout-à-fait g-enisle'!
'''Moi je suis dans l'Bottin' is a third song illustrating the ignorant vanity of a little Parisian shopkeeper, who bursts with pride because his name has at last been inserted in the great business directory of Paris.
'''And so,'' she proceeds to say, ''a newspaper has stated that I was about to sing my 'Souvenirs.' That's funny. No; I could not do that, it would take too long, and besides some of my recollections would be too amusing, oh, la-la! No; what I do sing are 'Les Souvenirs d'Yvette.' I am supposed to be singing in 1945, and I ask what has become of the people and things I knew years ago.
'''Of course, I have, as usual, an English song in my repertoire, 'Mary Was a Housemaid' - um, um, ym, c'est tout''
'Yvette looks matronly in figure, but she had remained as arch and as full of diablerie as of old.'
(The New York Times, New York, Friday, 31 May 1901, p. 6f/g)

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© John Culme, 2008