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

William Gilbert – an early influence on W.S. Gilbert?

Samantha PillingEntertainment, History

Pen Nib

In 1861, a 26-year-old W.S. Gilbert began supplementing his income by writing illustrated stories, poems and articles of his own. During this period, his series of illustrated poems, the ‘Bab Ballads’ became increasingly popular. However, W.S. Gilbert also illustrated the poems and short stories for others during this period – including those of his father, William Gilbert. Although William Gilbert … Read More

W.S. Gilbert – Stage Director

Samantha PillingEntertainment, History

Theatre sign

W.S. Gilbert wrote several plays and burlesques in his early years, especially whilst with the German Reed’s. It allowed him to develop his personal style and to control all aspects of production. However, it was in the following years that he honed his knowledge of stage direction, by following the likes of James Planché and Tom Robertson. James Planché A … Read More

The Bab Ballads

Samantha PillingHistory

Old Library Books

Sir William Schwenck Gilbert’s impressive creative output included over 75 plays and libretti, along with numerous stories and poems. These included poems of light verse, that later became known as the ‘Bab Ballads’. The Bab Ballads The Bab Ballads were originally written for the magazine, ‘Fun’. In 1861 ‘Fun’ was launched, under the editorship of H J Byron. Gilbert, looking to supplement his … Read More

Top 10 facts about Grim’s Dyke

Samantha PillingHistory, Latest News

Grim’s Dyke Hotel

Originally a country home, Grim’s Dyke has a wide and varied history, not only because of who owned the property over the years, but for who built it and what it subsequently became in later life. It’s one of the few country houses that survived war, recession and demolition – so it’s only fair that we honour that achievement, by … Read More