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|Let's meet the cast......
Written by JulieW
(2/27/2007 6:54 a.m.)
I've also found some biographical details of the actors which might interest you......:-)
Here is the cast list for the first run of The Rivals at Covent Garden during the season 1774/5( N.B. the theatrical season ran from September to June or July the following year)
Sir Anothony Absoulte : Mr Shuter
Captain Absoulute: Mr Woodward
Faulkland :Mr Lewis
Acres :Mr Quick
Sir Lucius: Mr Lee, replaced by Lawrence Cinch after the first performance.
Fag: Mr Lee Lewes
David: Mr Dunstal
Thomas: Mr Fearon
Mrs Malaprop :Mrs Green
Lydia languish :Miss Barsanti
Julia :Mrs Bulkley
Lucy: Mrs Lessingham
Here is Mr Shuter, who appears to have had a problem with drink.
Mrs Griffith’s play “A wife in the Right was more or less of a failure owing chiefly to the misdemenours of the comedian Shuter, who confessed that he had been drunk for the three days preceeding the production.
See;A History of Late 18th Century Drama by Allardyce Nicoll
However Garrick, the great actor and owner manager of Drury Lane, thought him to be the greatest comic genius he had ever known.
He was the original Old Hardcastle and Sir Anthony Absolute( of course!), Papillon in "The Liar," and Justice Woodcock in "Love in a Village.
Look at this from English Actors: From Shakespeare to Macready( 1879.)
His first appearance was at Covent Garden in 1745, as "The Schoolboy," for the benefit of an actor named Chapman, and he was so young that he was announced in the bills as "Master Shuter," as he was in those of Drury Lane a twelvemonth afterwards.
He died November 1st, 1776.
His last performance was Falstaff, for his own benefit, in the preceding May; but between the bottle and the tabernacle his faculties were nearly gone.
"He was more bewildered in his brain," says Wilkinson, "by wishing to acquire imaginary grace than by all his drinking; like Mawworm he believed he had a call."
In his reasonable moments he was a lively, shrewd companion, full of originality, whim, and humor; all he said and did was his own, for it was with difficulty he could read his parts, and he could just sign his name and no more; but he was the delight of all who knew him on or off the stage.
He was equally a favorite with the most distinguished people in the realm. It is related that one night two of the royal princes came behind the scenes to have a chat with him.
Their presence was anything but welcome on that occasion, as Shuter desired to study his part. "By Jove," he said suddenly, "the prompter has got my book; I must fetch it. Will your Royal Highness," addressing one of his visitors, "be so obliging as to hold my skull-cap to the fire?" "Oh, certainly, Shuter," replied the Prince. "And perhaps you, your Royal Highness," turning to the other, " will condescend to air my breeches while I am gone?" The second request was as cheerfully complied with as the first. Returning presently with another actor, and peeping through the keyhole, he saw his two visitors still engaged as he had left them, patiently awaiting his return.
I confess I like the sound of Mr Shuter……
Here is a picture of him with ( from left to right)Mrs Green(Mrs Malaprop) and Mr Quick.(Bob Acres)
Here is another picture of John Quick,who has a distinct gleam in his eye:-)
And here is a portrait by Zoffany of (in order from left to right) Mr Lewis, Mr Munden and Mr Quick. Mr Lewis played the part of Faulklad in The Rivals.
Now to Harry Woodward......our leading man.
He was one of the finest comedians of the eighteenth century and he made his first appearance as Rich's pupil at Covent Garden in 1730, when quite a boy.
He was born in 1717. His father was a tallow-chandler, and Harry was educated at Merchant Taylor's. Leaving Rich’s company at Covetn Gadren, he went over to Drury Lane in 1738, where he became a favorite.
…his face was of a serious cast; but the moment he opened his mouth upon the stage, a certain ludicrous air laid hold of his features, and every muscle ranged itself on the side of levity.
The very tone of his voice inspired comic ideas.
Although Kitty Clive was admirable as Katherine in "Taming of the Shrew," she seemed to be overborne by the extravagant and triumphant grotesqueness of Woodward's Petruchio, and to be as much overawed by his manner of acting as the lady is supposed to be in the play.
So naturally graceful was he, that it was said he could not throw himself into an ungraceful attitude.
‘He made his last appearance at Covent Garden in 1777, and died in the same year.
Here is Mr Lee Lewes who played Fag:
Mrs Lessingham,I cannot find a picture of,but she was interesting neverthe less.She had a variety of names,and was not only an actress….she was ahem, a lady of the night. She was the mistress of John Derrick, the drunken poet and author of the notorious Harris’s List of Prostitutes plying their trade in the Covent Garden area of London.
Hallie Rubenhold in her book The Covent Garden Ladies writes:
When the list appeared, his only rich relation, an aunt in Dublin, sent an emissary to London. Derrick was away, so he was entertained in their filthy garret by "Mrs Derrick", Jane Lessingham, an actress and prostitute. The aunt disinherited Derrick, and the mistress promptly left him for a richer man.
The richer man was Sir William Addington, a magistrate who gave Mrs lessingham (nee hemet and previously "Mrs"Derrick) a gift of 2 acres of land in Hampstead, then a separate village not part of Londond,. of waste at Gibbet Hill, west of the road to North End, where she employed the builder Bradley to erect a house. This casued problems with the locals.
Henry White, another builder, led protestors who, claiming that she was not a copyholder and was not entitled to the grant, filled in the excavations.
In 1776 she overcame the technicality by buying a cottage at Littleworth and succeeded in building Heath Lodge in the centre of the heath, a three-storyed cube with a central semicircular bay and flanking two-storeyed wings designed by James Wyatt , no less,on the model of a villa in Italy. Mrs. Lessingham who died in. 1783 left the house to Thomas Harris the, manager of Covent Garden theatre, but he leased it to William, Lord Byron (d. 1798), the poet's great-uncle, in 1784..
Some interesting gossip there ,I'm sure you will agree.
Miss Barsanti, eventually became Mrs Daly when she married the proprietor of the Dublin theatre in Ireland, and her performances there inspired the young Dorothea Jordan who, in her turn, became one of the most famous actresses of the 18th century.
I do hope you have enjoyed meeting the first cast of The Rivals ;-)
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