Postcard of the week ending
Saturday, 10 January 2009

Hilda Jacobsen (fl. late 19th/early 20th Century),
English actress and singer,
as Donna Teresa on tour in the UK in The Toreador, 1902/03,
and as principal boy in the pantomime,
Jack and the Beanstalk, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 10 December 1903

Hilda Jacobsen

Hilda Jacobsen as Donna Teresa
on tour in the UK in The Toreador, 1902/03

(photo: Percy Guttenberg, Manchester, 1902/03)

This real photograph postcard was published in Manchester about 1903 by the photographer Percy Guttenberg. The part of Donna Teresa was created by Queenie Leighton when The Toreador was first produced at the Gaiety Theatre, London, on 17 June 1901. During the run of 675 performances, the part was also played by Maidie Hope, Hilda Jacobsen and Norma Whalley. Miss Jacobsen also took the part of Donna Teresa in one of the United Kingdom touring productions of The Toreador, a fact mentioned in The Scotsman's review of the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, in which she played the principal boy, Jack, upon its being produced at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, on 10 December 1903.

'A certain English police judge recently decreed that the music hall, in presenting a one-act play on its boards, was infringing upon the rights of the theatre. A very slight study of modern pantomime - to say nothing of modern musical comedy - would show that there was a good deal to be said on the other side. The Christmas entertainment of recent years, indeed, has often tended to be little more than a series of music-hall ''turns,'' indifferently linked together by a story of a texture tenuous in the extreme. It has gradually lost the old accompaniments which made it suitable as an entertainment for old and young alike. Instead of abdicating in favour of his juvenile rival during the Christmas and New Year season, we have ha the adult patron of the theatre - and the music hall - exercising his prerogative as an all-the-year-round supporter, to be supplied with an entertainment suited to his advanced palate. To this state of affairs there have been several exceptions, and the long line of ''Royal'' pantomimes has provided not the least notable. Messrs. Howard & Wyndham have consistently eschewed, probably wisely, the note of utter modernity. White departing gradually from many old traditions, they have always endeavoured to realise the ideal of a pantomime which shall be - for pantomime - a homogeneous blending of song and dance and story, rough-and-tumble business, and scenic brilliance.

Mrs and Mrs George Robey (Ethel Haydon)

Mr and Mrs George Robey (Ethel Haydon)

(photo: Ireland, UK, circa 1903)

'It is an ideal which in their latest venture, Jack and the Beanstalk, enthusiastically received by a bumper house at Glasgow Theatre Royal last evening, they have successfully realised. It has become a convention of pantomime to open with a village setting, a mill, or rose-trained trellised cottage in the foreground and a prospect of hill and stream and dale beyond. There is a bright dance of villagers fresh of face and costume, and we become acquainted with our characters under the merriest auspices. Jack and the Beanstalk opens in this approved manner; we meet all the companions of our journey down to the ''honest, simple, trusting cow'' ''Wilhelmina,'' which, by the way, is highly unobtrusive for a pantomime animal. The scene changes to the entrance-gate of a cattle show, where some amusement is created by attempts on the part of several of the characters, who are impecunious - most pantomime characters, except those of the shadier sort, are impecunious up to the penultimate scene - to enter without payment. The difficulty of the process leads, by contract, to the introduction of the fiscal question. ''If I were a foreign export,'' says Captain Gottem, aeronaut or nothing, at this point nothing, ''I could get in.'' This brings on a fiscal song - ''What are you doing it for?'' - which describes the rage of the German and the American at the efforts of a certain British statesman [i.e. Joseph Chamberlain and Tarrif reform]. Meanwhile Jack's cow has been showing, but is, through the machinations of the emissaries of the Giant Blunderbore, disqualified. The family home is on the verge of ruin, and Jack, the prize he hoped for lost, is in tears. At this point Snap and Snorum, the emissaries of the Giant, approach, and offer to buy the cow for double the amount of the prize. In his great joy, Jack receives payment with his face turned steadfastly in the opposite direction, and a bag of beans is thrust into his hand instead of the expected bag of gold. The story now further develops. Jack enters with his luckless bargain, and his mother, Dame Trot, throws the beans, in anger, out of the window. The home must be given up, and this serves as the occasion for a very tuneful ''Good-bye'' song, sung by Miss Ethel Haydon [Mrs George Robey]. Villainy at this point becomes rampant. Phoebe, Jack's sweetheart, and Margery, her friend, are suddenly carried off to the dreaded Giant Blunderbore's castle. Now is the time for the Beanstalk. It rises impressively into view behind the stage, bright green and scarlet, and Jack is seen mounting. When we next encounter him he is in high altitudes. The scene is ''Cloudland.'' Journeying still further, we arrive at the ''Home of the Stars.'' With this, which is really the transformation scene, introduced at a point where its beauties have the attention of an audience. Part I. of the pantomime ends.
'With the second part we enter the heart of the enemy's territory. Jack and the airship company arrive in the ''Giant's Kitchen,'' the first by way of the door and the others by way of the chimney. After various antics in the kitchen, and a passing visit from the Giant and his family in person, simulated love and strategy are successful in securing the only exit key of the Castle, and Jack and his fellow-terrestrials set off in flight. We follow them through a ravine, castle-crowned, and one of them stops on his way to sing us a song, ''Guid Auld Summertime,'' which satirises in pleasant numbers the June and July of recent years, rash marriages, and other things. The roarings of the Giant induce progression, ans we come to the ''Base of the Beanstalk.'' ''Pansy Faces'' is effectively sung, and then further roaring rises on the ear. The Giant is in mid-descent. With a blow of his fairy axe Jack severs the great stalk, and immediately, by a clever mechanical effect, we have the Giant overthrown in the midst of the beanstalk, which has grown to the dimensions of a woodland glade. The story is now nearing its end. There is a delightful scene from the brush of Mr T.E. Ryan, ''A Quiet Corner,'' and the next scene brings us to Dame Trot's home again. By this time Jack is discovered to be the heir to many broad acres, and we enter without surprise the Grounds of his Palace. Here his mother instructs him as to the purchase of ancestors, the acquiring of a pedigree, and other of the duties which devolve upon him in his new sphere, and then comes the closing scene - the ''Hall of Jack's Palace.''

Brothers Egbert

Brothers Egbert (Seth and Albert)

(photo: R. Brown, UK, circa 1905)

'If the management entertained any doubts as to the success of the piece, the reception of the first scene must have dispelled these. The opening chorus was warmly applauded, and the first song was enthusiastically encored. This was enough to give the strong company which appears in the production the initial encouragement required. Miss Hilda Jacobsen, who is the principal boy, won her way to the hearts of the Glasgow playgoeers some time since in the part of Teresa in [a touring production of] the Toreador. As Jack last night, she scored an instant success in a part which offers scope for a more varied display of her talents. Her singing and acting were alike excellent. It was her first song that brought the first encore, and with it the first gallery whistling chorus. Her coon song (without coon accompaniments, ''I'se awatin' for yer, Josie,'' was another instantaneous success. Miss Florence Jamieson, the principal girl, sings and acts charmingly as Jack's sweetheart, and worked hard with Miss Jacobsen for the piece. To her fell the popular ''Pansy Faces'' number, which was enthusiastically encored. She, too, immediately won favour of the audience. Miss Ethel Haydon, as Margery, is another good singer, and plays her part of a village coquette with a due, but not over-due, appreciation of the apposite archness. Miss Haydon shares with Mr George Robey the credit of the variety sketch in the piece. Mr Robey is principal comedian. History has not left us sufficient material of an authoritative character about the part he impersonates, Dame Trot, to interfere with the personal equation in the rendering of it, and Mr Robey has had a free hand. His Dame Trot is an exceedingly skilful piece of work. He plays the part of the skittish matron with a fine sense of restraint. At no point does he yield to the temptation of the petticoated comedian to set his feet upon the broad path which leadth to vulgarity, yet he invests the part with a thousand and one irresistible drolleries of voice and gesture. How highly Mr Robey amused the house may be gathered from the fact that it insisted upon his acknowledging its plaudits in person at the close of the performance. Mr J.T. MacMillan has long been familiar to Glasgow audiences. His part is for the most part that of the sorely betartaned figure whose red whiskers and broad checks the Metropolis accepts as betraying the typical Scot. He plays in appreciatively, but he was worthy of a happier fate. He secured a well-deserved encore for his ''Summertime'' song. Mr Allen Thomas as Captain Gottem has the fiscal song and reference alluded to, a part which he might develop along amusing lines. Other parts are taken by Miss Eva Fairleigh, who is statuesque as the giant's Major Domo, and has a pleasant light singing voice; the Lomas Troupe, who appear by virtue of their skill in stilts with great success in the parts of the Giant Blunderbore and his family; the Egbert Brothers are amusing as the giant's emissaries, and performs [sic] a good deal of clever knockabout business, which might, by the way, be distributed more generally over the piece with advantage. The Brothers Zeitz enact the preposterous but mirth-provoking cow. A troupe of eight dancers from the Tiller school provides a series of effective dances, and merits special acknowledgement for its charming accompaniment to ''Pansy Faces,'' where its members, costumed to simulate purple pansies, doubled with dance and chorus the attractiveness of the song. Mr William Wade in the book has produced a bright and smoothly running libretto. The fine scenery of the piece is the work of chiefly Mr R.C. Oldham; Mr Alfred Carpenter, the musical director, is responsible for the pleasant incidental music; and Mr William Morton for the electrical effects; which the principal of the gorgeous costumes are by Alias [well known theatrical costumiers of London]. The entire pantomime is produced under the personal direction of Mr F.W. Wyndham, assisted by Mr Lynn Norgate. So smoothly did last night's performance run that Mr Wyndham was acknowledging the calls of the house for his appearance a few minutes after eleven o'clock. He expressed the hope that he had brought to the city a worthy company in a worthy pantomime. There is little doubt that the success of the new piece will confirm him in his hope.'
(The Scotsman, Edinburgh, Friday, 11 December 1903, p. 5d)

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© John Culme, 2009