Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 29 November 2008

Arthur Forrest (1850-1908),
English music hall comedian and pantomime dame

Muriel Brandt
Arthur Forrest in character on a song sheet cover for the song
'I Couldn't Say No; or, The Beautiful Song and Dance Lady,'
written and composed by Charles Williams

(published by V. & A. Dobrowolski, London;
lithography by Concanen & Spalding, London, circa 1889)

'MR. ARTHUR FORREST, Versatile Comique; also Miss POLLIE RHODES, Brilliant Serio-Comic, now appearing with usual success at GAIETY, SHEFFIELD. London, January 11th. Terms settled by our Sole Agents, Messrs Victor and Turnbull.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 14 November 1885, p. 23d)

The Oxford music hall, London
'. . . Mr. Arthur Forrest's notions of humour are not in accord with those of Oxford frequenters, who could not, or would not, see the point of his songs, though applauding some slight eccentricities in a step dance. . . .'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 6 March 1886, p. 10a)

South London Palace music hall, London
'Mr Arthur Forrest worked hard to justify his claim to be considered ''the quintessence of comedy'' . . .'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 6 March 1886, p. 10b)

The Trocadero music hall, London
'. . . The bill is completed, and completed satisfactorily, by Mr Arthur Forrest, with well-rendered ditties that are also of the comic order.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 15 January 1887, p. 9d)

Collins's music hall, London
'We may revert to a comedian of a thoroughly English type, Mr James Fawn, whose name is a household word, and whose position as leading comic singer in the music halls is unassailed. He is under engagement here until Easter. Mr Fawn sang his most successful ''Concert at the Albert Hall,'' ''Just in time,'' and ''I borrowed it,'' with that complete command of his resources as a comedian that he always evinces. Mr Arthur Forrest, whose fame is not yet so well established as that of Mr Fawn, is not likely to be a stranger to good fortune while he continues to demonstrate his power of characterisation as he did on the night of our visit to Collins's. . . .'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 12 February 1887, p. 10b)

Deacon's music hall, London
. . . Mr Arthur Forrest was very successful in entertaining the audience in a song and dance, more especially the latter, which was eccentric to a degree and laughable. ''The girl I saw in my dreams,'' one of his selections, has a good tune, and tells a fairly amusing story, but Mr Forrest should immediately avoid the trick of shutting his eyes when singing. It is absurd, and spoils his otherwise comic efforts.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 2 July 1887, p. 17a)

The Forresters' music hall, London
'. . . Mr George H. Chirgwin, who is under engagement here, would, we think, make this part amusing; but he prefers to remain as the white-eyed Kaffir, with music, song, and dance agreeably mixed. Another comedian, Mr Arthur Forrest, wins success in songs that are charged with a rough kind of humour. . . .'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 6 October 1888, p. 15b)

The Trocadero music hall, London
'. . . Mr Arthur Forrest's song and dance lady roused the somewhat languid spectators to laughter by its excellent parody of the school of dancing in which while lace petticoats are duly displayed. Who has not seen the merry little nymph, exhibiting clouds of lace, kick up her heels, and bring the more susceptible of her audience under the spell of her fascinations. Mr Forrest has taken this school of lady dancers and burlesqued it. As he is a capital exponent of the salutatory art, he has no difficulty in executing the steps, and the well-known tricks with the petticoats affected by his professional sisters he hits off funnily and without offence.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 29 June 1889, p. 15b)

'''The Beautiful Song and Dance Lady.''
'Fifth Week, TROCADERO. Fourth Engagement. Fifth Week COLLINS'S. Four Engagement. New Business, New Skirts, and no Vulgarity. ''It's safer there.'' Joe Fredericks write.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 6 July 1889, p. 24d)

Collins's music hall, London
'. . . Mr Arthur Forrest represents the song and dance nymph with considerable cleverness and without vulgarity, a most blessed thing assuredly in any impersonation of the softer sex by one of the sterner. . . .'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 13 July 1889, p. 15b)

'MR. ARTHUR FORREST has christening his beautiful song and dance lady Princess Prettypet, and she comes forward to receive a bouquet provided by herself from the hands of the conductor. She presses this to her lips, and then the fun begins. The bouquet is flowerless but full of flour, and finally blossoms into the portrait of an infant in long clothes.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 21 September 1889, p. 15c)

'MR ARTHUR FORREST was much disconcerted at the London Pavilion the other evening, when he discovered some of the skirts missing from the costume that he wears in his now celebrated parody of the petticoat-twitching song and dance nymph. Mr Forrest discovered the theft just in time to prevent what might have been to him a very serious fiasco. In his own expressive Saxon, he regards the practical joke as a ''very dirty trick,'' as, had he worn the costume denuded as it was, he would in all probability have imperilled his artistic reputation.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 28 September 1889, p. 15c)

London Pavilion music hall, London
'. . . Mr Arthur Forrest has a very good new song, ''It's altered very much since then,'' but still depends for his chief success on his impersonation of the song and dance lady, a parody that has been instrumental in bringing its originator to the front. . ..'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 12 October 1889, p. 15a)

'Mr Boughton's Christmas pantomime will be produced on Christmas-eve, and already we have some notion of what the performance is to be. The story chosen, and once again put into pantomime verse by Mr. Oswald Allen, is The House that Jack Built. . . . There is Mr Arthur Forrest, who is to play Simperina, and is reckoned among the knowing as one of the best of pantomimic old women. . . .'
(Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Portsmouth, England, Saturday, 21 December 1889, p. 5e)

The House that Jack Built; or, Harlequin Gulliver in Lilliput, pantomime, Portsmouth
'. . . Mr. Arthur Forrest is all there in the broad comedy part of Simperina, and portrays the eccentricities of the seagoing spinster and her aged heart flutterings in her love affairs to a house which was well content with his acting, his dancing, and the comic duet, in which he was engaged with old Captain Jibspanker. This old seadog was represented by Mr. Teddy Mosedale . . .'
(Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Portsmouth, England, Saturday, 28 December 1889, p. 3f)

'Collins's music hall, London
'. . . Mr Arthur Forrest was warmly received with ''I've altered very much since then,'' a song in which he confessed to some terrible backsliding with regard to beauty, beer, and sundry other things; with ''Safer there,'' and with ''I couldn't say no'' in petticoats - not the song, of course, but the singer. This business seems to be Mr Forrest's strong card; and with some clever dancing he played it well. He certainly steered clear of offence, and was presented with a bouquet of peculiar flavour, amidst the loud laughter of the spectators.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 3 May 1890, p. 15b)

The Metropolitan music hall, London
'. . . Mr Arthur Forrest, who comes late in the bill, has found his introduction of the burlesque song and dance lady a trump card, and as music hall audiences are not yet tired of it he is quite right to still play it. The subject offers a fair mark for the parodist; but in Mr Forrest's impersonation it is the business, and not the words, that tells. Being an excellent dancer himself, he adds little touches of exaggeration that go down well, and never oversteps the line that divides broad humour from vulgarity. . . .'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 14 June 1890, p. 15a)

'MISS MARIE LOFTUS opened at Harry Miner's Theatre, New York, on Sept. 22d, at a matinée, and met with an enthusiastic reception from a crowded audience. A number of English professionals were present, including Mr Arthur Forrest, the Huline Brothers, and the whole of the Howard Athenæum company.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 4 October 1890, p. 16c)

'''KNOCKED 'EM IN KENNINGTON ROAD; or, Larks at Brixton'' is the title of a new song, of which the singing right has not yet been sold. It has been offered to several comic singer, but will probably be sung as a quartet by Will Crackles, Arthur Forrest, Tom Costello, and Bernard Armstrong. Those who were present at the first rehearsal of the selection on Monday evening say that the knockabout business introduced between the verses is as realistic as anything yet seen on the variety stage.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 26 September 1891, p. 16e)

Gatti's music hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London
'. . . Mr Arthur Forrest sings ''We parted'' and a medley song in effective style, but gains most applause for a burlesque of the serpentine dance. Mr Forrest is always good in this line of business, and he manages his skirts very cleverly, which his make-up is exceedingly droll. . . .'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 29 April 1893, p. 16b)

For a list of the titles of some of Arthur Forrest's songs, see Michael Kilgarriff, Sing Us One of the Old Songs, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 201.

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© John Culme, 2008