W.S. Gilbert’s Dulcamara

Samantha PillingHistory

comedy and tragedy masks old background

Dulcamara, otherwise known as The Little Duck and the Great Quack, was W.S. Gilbert’s first piece of stage-work. It came about through a chance conversation between Tom Robertson and Miss Herbert, lessee of Saint James’s Theatre in London. Miss Herbert was after a Christmas piece – the only downside was she needed it written in a fortnight!  Dulcamara, or The … Read More

Gilbert & Sullivan Reunited over Utopia, Limited

Samantha PillingHistory

old binoculars

Following on from the infamous ‘carpet quarrel’, Gilbert and Sullivan had gone their separate ways. However, Carte and his wife worked unsuccessfully, to reconcile the pair. In 1891. Tom Chappell stepped in to mediate and, two weeks later, they reconciled. This resulted in two more operas – Utopia, Limited being one of them. Production on Utopia, Limited Work didn’t immediately … Read More

John Harvey, W.S. Gilbert and the boat that bonded them

Samantha PillingHistory

Victorian Yaucht Building

John Harvey was a yacht builder from Essex. Father to actor, Sir Martin Harvey, he designed and built W.S. Gilbert’s second boat – the Chloris, a 110 ton yawl with a lead keel. During the spring of 1881 W.S. Gilbert spent a lot of time corresponding with John Harvey about his new yacht. It was nearly twice the size of … Read More

Victorian Composer Frederic Clay

Samantha PillingHistory

Composer

English composer Frederic Clay, was a great friend of Arthur Sullivan, who he subsequently introduced to W.S. Gilbert at the Gallery. Together, Clay and Gilbert produced four comic operas, before a stroke paralysed Clay at the age of 44 and cut short his productive life. Cay died in 1889, aged 51 when he was found drowned in the bath at … Read More

Arthur Playfair – The dancing corporal

Samantha PillingHistory

The_Girl_in_The_Taxi_1912

Arthur Wyndham Playfair was an actor and singer. He appeared in a couple of William Schwenck Gilbert’s operas, as well as Edwardian musical comedies, and also created roles in Victorian burlesques. Born on the 20th October in 1869, Playfair started life in Ellichpur, a city in the Indian state of Maharashtra. He made his first appearance on the British stage … Read More

Marie Litton – English actress and theatre manager

Samantha PillingHistory

Picture of old theatre

Born Mary Jessie Lowe in 1847, Marie Litton was an English actress who made her Haymarket debut playing Zayda, in Gilbert’s ‘The Wicked World’, in 1873. She went on to become a theatre manager who produced several of W.S. Gilbert’s plays. Marie Litton’s stage debut Marie Litton made her London stage debut playing the title character in Dion Boucicault’s play … Read More

W.S. Gilbert’s fairy play: The Wicked World

Samantha PillingHistory

Wicked World

The Wicked World was W.S. Gilbert’s third fairy play. It was a dramatization of Gilbert’s own illustrated story ‘The Wicked World’, originally published in Tom Hood’s 1871 ‘Comic Annual’. This half joking dramatization took Gilbert several months to write. It centred on the action within a twenty-four-hour period, focusing on a fairyland scene floating above the world. Broken down into … Read More

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: A time when W.S. Gilbert was king

Samantha PillingHistory

R&G

Known for having a genuine affection for amateur actors, Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was keen on performing as an amateur actor himself. He would occasionally write short plays to be used as charity performances and to raise funds for local hospitals. Frequently, he’d encourage his friends and colleagues to become part of the performing cast and Gilbert himself, was also known to take on the odd acting … Read More

The Hooligan by W.S. Gilbert

Samantha PillingEntertainment, History

Pentonville

Produced just four months before W.S. Gilbert’s death, this one-act play was a grim, yet powerful play. It was a study of a young condemned murderer, waiting in a prison cell for his execution and was inspired by the celebrated Crippen murder trial of 1910. One of Gilbert’s most successful serious dramas Gilbert focused on showing sympathy for the villain, … Read More

The Carl Rosa Opera Company

Samantha PillingHistory

palais garnier

Karl August Nicolaus Rose was born in Germany, on 22nd March 1842. A child prodigy and impresario, Rose (or Rosa, when he subsequently changed his name), was an important figure in the music industry. He played a huge role in illustrating the artistic and financial success of English opera, at time when it wasn’t considered a major player in the … Read More