Edwardian Theatre

Edwardian Theatre

Edwardian Theatre

Edwardian Theatre

Excerpt

WHEN THE EDWARDIAN PERIOD BEGAN IN FEBRUARY 1901, I was already an ardent playgoer. Reach not for Who's Who , inquisitive reader. There was probably no playgoer poorer than I, and few who were younger. I was a small schoolboy who, if not taken to the play by indulgent parents, could afford sixpence for a gallery seat now and again out of half a crown a week pocket money, supplemented at times by tips from kindly uncles. It says much for conditions in those far-off days that one could be a playgoer on such a limited income, and that while living in a seaside town less than a hundred miles from London.

But so it was. England was then well covered by touring companies, and it was possible during the summer season to see all the latest plays from London, excellently performed, from St. James's comedies and Drury Lane melodrama to Gaiety productions, and to enjoy the performances of such West End stars as Ellen Terry, Charles Wyndham, John Hare, Charles Warner, Fred Terry and Julia Neilson, and Martin Harvey, quite frequently. I saw them all and many more, and even had the thrill now and then of viewing some productions before they reached the West End. It was a popular town for try-outs.

That was only one of the many theatrical advantages of living in Edwardian times. With other advantages I am not concerned, for this is a book wholly and solely about the Edwardian theatre.

I suppose the real historian, intent upon setting down an accurate picture of the times, should survey the past in a critical but strictly objective spirit and not let personal feeling unduly colour or distort his record. Excellent advice, no doubt, but much easier to give than to follow. Sentimental regrets and fond memories will persist in intruding; events and personalities are apt to be enlarged beyond their real magnitude, and momentous affairs completely forgotten. A kindly haze obscures faults and deficiencies and leaves only the bolder virtues in sharp relief. And memory is such a capricious and unreliable faculty. How can we trust in it when we are conscious of the fact that is so apt to be coloured by our own emotions, tastes and prejudices?

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