Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|Why it bombed....
Written by JulieW
(2/26/2007 9:59 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Sheridan's Preface, penned by Cheryl
The theatre was packed,the first performance a sell-out..
Not surprising really.
The publicity surrounding the Sheriden/Linley elopemnt and consequent duels virtually guaranteed a good "house".
The London Chronicle of January 21-24, 1775, proclaimed:
there had not been seen so many ladies and people of fashion at a first night's representation for a long time."
Most of the audience abhorred the play.:
"A whole chorus hissed disapproval.... The play itself was damned. Its blemishes—length, exuberance, and drawn-out sentiment."
The Morning Post of January 20, 1775, called it "the gulph of malevolence,"
Well, there appears to have been an element of malice abroad.
Fintan O'Toole in his very readable biography of Sheriden ,A Traitor's Kiss ,
William Barnett who was Matthew's second in the duel ( with Sheriden-JW) of July 1772 and who delivered the challenge to Sheriden's sister Lissy was an Irishman and spread rumours in Bath and London before the first night that Sir Lucius O'Trigger was based on him.
Shortly after the opening the Morning Post criticised "Mr B_t" for his attempt to
"create a prejudice against the perfromance by every mode that malevolence could suggest"
There was certainly an organised claque on the opening night.
The "Public Ledger" reported that there had been hissing from a section of the audience and the "Morning Chronicle " that "a little malice form one corner of the gallery".
However, on the opening night :
..the play was threatened not by the disruption from Barnett that Sheriden feared but by the audience's feeling that in places it was not so much burlesque but grotesque.
The linguistic anarchy of Mrs Malaprop had been pushed too far, taking the word play into dangerous areas of double entendre.
Sir Anthony Absolute's lust for his prospective daughter in law was so heavily marked that it seemed genuinely distrubing rather than scabrously satirical.
And, most ironically, Sheriden's joke in himself as an Irish Adventurer in teh character of Sir Lucius O'Trigger was interpreted by the audience as a heavy handed attack on the Irish in gneral.
It does have to be said that the actor who played Sir Lucius was also very bad. His name was John Lee, and in Alladryce's book "Drama of the 18th century" it is noted that:
The actor, Lee, after being hit with an apple during the performance, stopped and addressed the audience, asking “By the pow'rs, is it personal? — is it me, or the matter?” Apparently, it was both.
Ned Shuter, who played Sir Anothny Absolute was also said not to have seemed to understand the part. He had a reputation for drunkeness, so perhaps it would not be uncharitabel of me to suggest that this may have contributed to his confusion:
Mrs Griffith’s play “A wife in the Right was more or less of a failure owing chiefly to the midemenours of the comedian Shuter, who confessed that he had been drunk for the three days peceeding the production.
Sheridan immediately withdrew the play and in the next 11 days, rewrote the original extensively, including a new preface in which he apologized for any impression that the character of Sir Lucius O’Trigger was intended as an insult to Ireland. You can see why an apology was necessary. In the harsh world of the 18th cnetury theatre not many flops got a second chance.
Rewritten and with a new actor, Clinch, in the role of O’Trigger, the play reopened on January 28 to significant acclaim.
It became a favorite of the royal family, receiving five command performances in ten years, and also in the Colonies : apparrently it was George Washington’s favorite play.
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.