Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold

___

Short Plays

Other Plays

Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures in America

Poetry Readings

ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

Home
Biography
Bibliography

Poetry
Plays
Fiction

Essays
Reviews
Letters

The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay
Miscellanea

Links
Site Diary
Site Search

ALONE IN LONDON IN LONDON

 

The Era (8 August, 1885)

     MISS HARRIETT JAY has returned from America, bringing with her the manuscript of Mr Buchanan’s new melodrama, Alone in London, which was written at her suggestion, and has obtained success in the United States. The American rights have been secured by the well-known entrepreneur, Colonel Sinn, of Brooklyn, who pays Miss Jay forty per cent. of the nett profits, with a guarantee that her share for the first season of forty weeks shall not be less than twelve thousand dollars (£2,400). Mr Buchanan remains very ill, having not yet recovered from the serious pulmonary attack which prostrated him during the severe winter in New York. During the coming season he will produce a new romantic play at Wallack’s and an original comedy at Daly’s.

alonejay

[Notice in The Era (8 August, 1885 - p.6).]

 

The Morning Post (5 October, 1885 - p.2)

THEATRICAL AND MUSICAL
INTELLIGENCE.

_____

     Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay have been employed together for some time past in the construction of a drama illustrative of English life, to be entitled “Alone in London.” The piece will be produced at the Olympic on the early reopening of that theatre for the winter season, under the direction of Mrs. Conover. The painting of the scenery, which is to be of quite exceptional beauty, has been entrusted to Messrs. Perkins and Bruce Smith. In the cast will be Miss Amy Roselle, Miss H. Jay, and Messrs. P. Beck, Percy Bell, Gilbert Farquhar, and Herbert Standing.

___

 

The Liverpool Mercury (29 October, 1885 - p.5)

     On Saturday night we ought to have had at the Olympic Mr. Robert Buchanan’s romantic melodrama, written in collaboration with Miss Harriett Jay, and entitled “Alone in London.” It was postponed until to-night. But this morning it has again been postponed. Mrs. Conover has found it “impossible to realise the extraordinary mechanical effects until Monday.”

___

 

Alone in London opened at the Olympic Theatre, London on Monday, 2nd November, 1885. Below is the programme for the performance on Saturday, 7th.

prog4lt
prog5lt

The Olympic Programme and Looker-On includes an abridged article from the Pall Mall Gazette about the opening night and extracts from reviews:

FOUR ACTS, TEN TABLEAUX,
AND A PROLOGUE.

_____

     The following amusing account of the first night of “Alone in London,” is abridged from the Pall Mall Gazette:—

     It is not every night that the British public can see a poetess—actress—manageress flitting through the corridors of her own theatre, and personally superintending the arrangements for the comfort of her guests—from the strength of the coffee to the adjustment of a gas tap. I have often heard of “brilliant first nights,” but seldom have I seen such a combination. There was Miss Harriett Jay, novelist, playwright, actress; Mr. Robert Buchanan, poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, reviewer, critic, &c.; and Mrs. Anna Conover, poetess, actress, manageress. Yet one may see the trio by paying the usual fees demanded at the Olympic Theatre, where Mr. Robert Buchanan’s realistic Drama (with a big D) of English life, in a prologue, four acts, and ten tableaux, entitled, “Alone in London,” was produced last night, after suffering pains of labour of an unusual severity (though “Alone in London” is not the author’s first-born). It might be said by carping quidnuncs that he had prigged from Oliver Twist. We do see a little boy of six shoved through the bars of a window by a trio of burglars, but one of them was his father, and young Twist was not the son of Bill Sykes. So there is no resemblance between the situations. It would be just as fair to accuse Mr. Buchanan of stealing the idea of the real pump and the real water (it excited quite a torrent of admiration) from Mr. Crumbles, or of going to the story of Andromeda for the great scene of the play, in which Nan is tied to a post in the river by her husband, and left to wait for the “turn of the tide.” But Andromeda was attached to a rock. Nan, by the way, is rescued by her old lover, just arrived from the Inventories—a deus ex machina indeed. This scene, or rather succession of scenes, brought down the house (this might be taken literally). The picture of the Thames by moonlight is really pretty, and makes one forget that the Thames is only a sewer on a large scale. This only proves how deceptive are appearances. Even a sewer would look beautiful under such a silvery moon.
     In Mr. Buchanan’s drama, we have undoubtedly the highest form of scenic illusion. We are within the tumble-down walls of a rickety Drury-lane lodging-house. The prompter rings. Exeunt the dramatis personæ, and the stage is empty. Then the lights are lowered, the chairs glide off into space, the table walks off at his own sweet will, and other pieces of furniture follow in a casual and free-and-easy procession. I have seen the same effect produced at a spiritual séance. Mr. Buchanan’s chairs and tables are not as ordinary chairs and tables. He has instilled some of his own energy into them. Last night, for example, the table was actually making its way upstairs, but was stopped in time. Who can deny, then, that this is the highest form of stage craft? Could realism be carried further? The play is produced on a scale unexampled in the history of the theatre. One of the scenes alone will entail a cost adequate to the entire expenses of getting up an ordinary play.
     Those who have seen that charming actress, Miss Amy Roselle, as the heroine in “The Ticket of Leave Man” will understand the consummate skill with which she plays Nan in “Alone in London.” Tom Chickweed, the groundsel hawker, a wretched, barefooted, half-starved, ragged waif, who is always turning up at the right time (a melo-dramatic opportunist), carries no broom and does not at all remind one of another waif named Joe. Tom is a pathetic figure; but Tom should remember that even rags do not last six years, and clap a patch or two on his breeches after the prologue. But great is the power of dress. No one recognized Miss Jay in the flowing sky-blue draperies in which she made her bow. What need is there to tell the story? The innocent miller’s daughter marries an unscrupulous adventurer, who takes her to London. Hence the tears. Richard Redcliffe (nothing could be better than Mr. Standing’s rendering) is a burglar among other of his accomplishments, and needless to say he leads his wife a deuce of a life. He is imprisoned for some offence, and the wretched woman is taken into the family of a great-hearted philanthropist, who has a hobby for rescue work (the pittites always called him “Mr. Samuel Morley”). Richard himself again. Nan turned out by his machinations. He plans and carries out a burglary at the house of the philanthropist. Nan comes to the rescue; exciting scene follows; Tom Chickweed slays Richard; Nan presumably marries old lover (Mr. Leonard Boyne); moral from Milton, curtain, calls, and bouquets.

__________

“ALONE IN LONDON,” AT THE OLYMPIC.
_____

A GIGANTIC SUCCESS
_____

Read the opinion of the leading English Journal.

The TIMES says:—

     The New Melo-drama, by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, “Alone in London,” which was produced last night with every sign of popular favour, ought to teach the public how to find their way to this theatre, as they did in the days of Madame Vestris, and the early days of the “Ticket-of-Leave Man,” for, in the present instance, nothing has been left undone to ensure success. “Alone in London” is a sound and vigorous play, acted by a superior company, and placed on the stage with every advantage of scenic effect. There runs through it a healthy vein of dramatic interest, well calculated to arrest and hold the attention of a popular audience.

Read the opinion of the leading Scottish Journal.

The SCOTSMAN says:

     “Alone in London,” a melo-drama, in a prologue and four acts, by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, was produced for the first time in this country at the Olympic Theatre this evening. The piece has been given in America, where it is still playing with great success, and Miss Jay resumed the part in it to-night which she originally enacted in the United States. The story is an elaborate and interesting one.  . .  . Thus ends a powerful melo-drama. The piece was received with much applause by a crowded and rather unruly house, and all the characters, as well as the authors, were called before the curtain at the conclusion. With due curtailment, “Alone in London” is a melo-drama that should exactly suit the Olympic Theatre.

Read the opinion of the leading Ladies’ Newspaper.

The LADIES’ PICTORIAL says:

     In selecting as the authors of her autumnal production, Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, Mrs. Conover showed sound judgment, for, if the time-honoured Olympic is to be restored to public favour, a strong, realistic melo- drama is the class of entertainment to effect such an end, and the celebrated Scotch poet and novelist, and his talented collaborator, are by far too well experienced in the art of stagecraft to put their names to anything uninteresting. “Alone in London” was, after several postponements, presented to the public on Monday, and though, owing to the presence of the rowdy element in the pit and galleries, no unanimous verdict was given, yet the educated section of the audience pronounced, and very properly so, in favour of the play.
     Those who desire a strongly-flavoured meal of melo-drama must appreciate the fare provided by the, until now, unfortunate manageress of the theatre, where Madame Vestris used to draw all London, and where “The Ticket of Leave Man” enjoyed so long and prosperous a run. There are some situations of immense dramatic power, and the story is not, as too frequently, impeded for the sake of them; they hang on in their proper places to the plot.
     Not only is Miss Jay part authoress of “Alone in London,” but she also enacts the part of the waif, and combines in a charming performance the pathos of Miss Jennie Lee’s world-famed impersonation of Jo, and I was going to write the delicacy of the boy in “Lady Clare,” till I remembered that it was Miss Jay herself who scored so decisively in that comedy. Many small subsidiary characters are sketched in a literary manner by the authors, and depicted by the artists as any author would delight to see. I think I may safely predict prosperity for “Alone in London.”

The DAILY TELEGRAPH says:

     A play that is vigourous, spirited, and never dull. It is full of clever ideas. All are good. There is plenty of excitement and material for a dozen dramas. Mrs. Conover has a chance of an Olympic success.

The DAILY NEWS says:

     The authors and the leading performers were called before the curtain at the close of a highly successful commencement of Mrs. Conover’s winter season. The authors have accumulated exciting incident upon exciting   incident.  . . Wrought an audience presumptively not unused to marvels to a high pitch of enthusiasm.

The SPORTSMAN says:

     Produced with a realism and completeness that appeared little short of supernatural, from first to last was most effective, and the audience was loud in its applause of the garden of the Inventions, with its thousands of lights and its fountains of varied coloured fires, and of the opening of the sluice-gates and the rushing in of the boiling waters beneath the pale moonlight.

__________

 

The full reviews from The Pall Mall Gazette, The Times and The Daily News appear below, followed by several others.

The Pall Mall Gazette (3 November, 1885)

FOUR ACTS, TEN TABLEAUX, AND A PROLOGUE.

A CORRESPONDENT sends us the following account of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new play, produced at the Olympic Theatre last night:—

     It is not every night that the British public can see a poetess—actress—manageress flitting through the corridors of her own theatre, and personally superintending the arrangements for the comfort of her guests—from the strength of the coffee to the adjustment of a gas tap. I have often heard of “brilliant first nights,” but seldom have I seen such a combination. There was Miss Harriett Jay, novelist, playwright, actress; Mr. Robert Buchanan, poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, reviewer, critic, &c.; and Mrs. Anna Conover, poetess, actress, manageress. Yet one may see the trio by paying the usual fees demanded at the Olympic Theatre, where Mr. Robert Buchanan’s realistic Drama (with a big D) of English life, in a prologue, four acts, and ten tableaux, entitled, “Alone in London,” was produced last night, after suffering pains of labour of an unusual severity (though “Alone in London” is not the author’s first-born). It might have been said that it bore some resemblance to another play called “The Lights o’ London,” but that cannot be. The first paragraph of the first page of the “Olympic Programme and Looker on” runs as follows: “As the new drama of ‘Alone in London’ bears a certain similarity in title, though none whatever in subject or characters, to the well-known play by Mr. G. R. Sims, I may state with authority that it was written and accepted by an English manager several years before the production of ‘The Lights o’ London.’” And thus criticism is disarmed. It is true that Miss Meadows does come from the country to London, and passes through the usual phases of slum life. Mr. Sims cannot copyright a slum. He certainly addressed some lines to “The Lights of London” in all conditions, “the dazzling lights of London,” or “the cruel lights of London,” &c.; but Mr. Buchanan talks of “electric splendour” and “starry orbs,” and proceeds in this strain:—

At last, alone in London,
     She sinks in that dark sea!
Deep down below its ebb and flow
     Creep creatures sad as she;
Ragged and wretched, thro’ the gloom
     The human outcasts move;
Yet even here, in darkness, bloom
     Lilies of light and love!

     Mr. Buchanan says nothing of another Princess’s play, “The Silver King,” but there, again, burglars are not the property of Messrs. Jones and Herman. It might be said by carping quidnuncs that he had prigged from Oliver Twist. We do see a little boy of six shoved through the bars of a window by a trio of burglars, but one of them was his father, and young Twist was not the son of Bill Sikes. So there is no resemblance between the situations. It would be just as fair to accuse Mr. Buchanan of stealing the idea of the real pump and the real water (it excited quite a torrent of admiration) from Mr. Crummles, or of going to the story of Andromeda for the great scene of the play, in which Nan is tied to a post in the river by her husband, and left to wait for the “turn of the tide.” But Andromeda was attached to a rock. Nan, by the way, is rescued by her old lover, just arrived from the Inventories—a deus ex machinâ indeed. This scene, or rather succession of scenes, brought down the house (this might be taken literally). The picture of the Thames by moonlight is really pretty, and makes one forget that the Thames is only a sewer on a large scale. This only proves how deceptive are appearances. Even a sewer would look beautiful under such a silvery moon.
     Apropos of this rescue, I was reminded by my neighbour that a rescue of this sort occurs nightly at the Adelphi, in a play called “The Colleen Bawn,” in which an Irish gentleman named Coppaleen comes in his boat to rescue young Eily from a watery grave; but Eily was not tied to a post; she was pitched into the water, which is quite a different affair. In Mr. Buchanan’s drama, we have undoubtedly the highest form of scenic illusion. We are within the tumble-down walls of a rickety Drury-lane lodging-house. The prompter rings. Exeunt the dramatis personæ, and the stage is empty. Then the lights are lowered, the chairs glide off into space, the table walks off at its own sweet will, and other pieces of furniture follow in a casual and free-and-easy procession. I have seen the same effect produced at a spiritual séance. Mr. Buchanan’s chairs and tables are not as ordinary chairs and tables. He has instilled some of his own energy into them. Last night, for example, the table was actually making its way upstairs, but was stopped in time. Who can deny, then, that this is the highest form of stage craft? Could realism be carried further? The walls may fall and kill a few supers, or they might take fire, but how much better than the old-fashioned carpenter’s scene. However, “the play is produced on a scale unexampled in the history of the theatre. One of the scenes alone will entail a cost adequate to the entire expenses of getting up an ordinary play.”
     Those who have seen that charming actress, Miss Amy Roselle, as the heroine in “The Ticket of Leave Man” will understand the consummate skill with which she plays Nan in “Alone in London.” Tom Chickweed, the groundsel hawker, a wretched, barefooted, half-starved, ragged waif, who is always turning up at the right time (a melodramatic opportunist), carries no broom and does not at all remind one of another waif named “Jo.” Tom is a pathetic figure; but Tom should remember that even rags do not last six years, and clap a patch or two on his breeches after the prologue. But great is the power of dress. No one recognized Miss Jay in the flowing sky-blue draperies in which she made her bow. What need is there to tell the story? The innocent miller’s daughter marries an unscrupulous adventurer who takes her to London. Hence the tears. Richard Redcliffe (nothing could be better than Mr. Standing’s rendering) is a burglar among other of his accomplishments, and needless to say he leads his wife a deuce of a life. He is imprisoned for some offence, and the wretched woman is taken into the family of a great-hearted philanthropist, who has a hobby for rescue work (the pittites always called him “Mr. Samuel Morley”). Richard himself again. Nan turned out by his machinations. He plans and carries out a burglary at the house of the philanthropist. Nan comes to the rescue; exciting scene follows; Tom Chickweed slays Richard; Nan presumably marries old lover (Mr. Leonard Boyne); moral from Milton, curtain, calls, and bouquets.

___

 

The Times (3 November, 1885 - p.9)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.

     The fortunes of the Olympic Theatre have for some time past been at a low ebb. It has come to be regarded as an unlucky theatre. It is not unlikely, however, that its persistent ill-fortune is due to no more occult influences than a lax and nerveless system of management. If so, the new melodrama by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, Alone in London, which, after one or two postponements, was produced last night with every sign of popular favour, ought to teach the public how to find their way to this theatre as they did in the Madame Vestris period, or in the early days of the Ticket of Leave Man; for, in the present instance, nothing seems to have been left undone to insure success. Alone in London is a sound and vigorous play of the type which has been popularized at Drury-lane and the Adelphi. It is acted by a superior company, and it is placed upon the stage with all the advantages of scenic effect to be derived from whirling scenery and the other appliances of modern stage management. The public who may have come to scoff, as they did at the unfortunate interpolation of a nigger minstrel scene in the first act, remain to applaud; and if there is perhaps too much sordid realism in the scenes of low London life for the taste of the superfine playgoer, there runs through the play a healthy vein of dramatic interest, well calculated to arrest and to hold the attention of a popular audience. Alone in London sets forth the sorrows and tribulations of a country girl, who, rejecting the love of an honest fellow in her native village, succumbs to the blandishments of a London adventurer, by whom she is maltreated, starved, and all but driven upon the streets. This character is played by Miss Amy Roselle with a good deal of pathetic force. The intricacies of the story it would be tedious to relate. Suffice it to say that the heroine’s wrongs are ingeniously multiplied act by act by the action of her worthless husband, who is a swell mobsman, and by that of his associates, until at length poetic justice is done, and the persecuted woman finds her long-deferred happiness in her true lover’s arms. An attempted bank robbery cuts short the career of the several villains of the play, but not until they have tried their hands at various forms of fraud and imposture, and until the husband has sought to drown his wife by tying her to a post in a sluice-house at Rotherhithe, and opening the flood gates. To describe the heroine as “alone in London” is scarcely accurate, for she is attended and watched over throughout her troubles by Gipsy Tom, a waif and stray whom she had once befriended, and who is played by Miss Harriet Jay. The husband, as rendered by Mr. Herbert Standing, is a polished and cynical ruffian, who when he is not loafing about the slums of Westminster or the purlieus of the docks is playing the swell in the correctest of evening dress, and his bosom friend is a philosophic felon whose favourite pursuit is to collect charitable subscriptions in a semi-clerical garb. A sturdy rustic hero is found in Mr. Leonard Boyne, who plays with much quiet force; and of course the incidental sketches of character which it is now the fashion to introduce into this class of piece are not wanting. Among the more striking scenes are Westminster-bridge and the Houses of Parliament by night and the gardens of the Inventions Exhibition.

___

 

The Daily News (3 November, 1885)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.
_____

     Twice postponed in order to allow time for the due preparation of the numerous elaborate scenes and mechanical effects involved in the setting forth of its story, the new “realistic drama of English life,” entitled “Alone in London,” by  Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, was brought out last night at the Olympic Theatre. The play, which, as our readers are aware, has already seen the light in America, is a melodrama of the most pronounced type. Throughout five long acts, or rather throughout four acts preceded by a prologue, the heroine, Annie Meadows, a simple village maiden, and daughter of a gamekeeper, suffers tortures innumerable at the hands of a scoundrel named Richard Redcliffe, whom in an evil hour she has preferred to an honest admirer in the person of John Biddlecombe, a wealthy Suffolk miller. To tell of the trials and sorrows of this unhappy person and her little child, to enumerate the scenes of life both high and low—but chiefly low—to which her vicissitudes of fortune conduct, or to convey a notion of the number of times she is befriended and aided by the poor, ragged lad Gipsy Tom until the latter stabs to the heart the execrable scoundrel when detected in the act of committing a burglary, and thus wipes off an old personal score, saves an innocent wife and child, and frees the persecuted heroine just in time to consign her to the faithful arms of her old lover, would demand more space than could reasonably be accorded. The authors have missed no opportunity of accumulating exciting incident upon exciting incident, and though at first the action dragged somewhat, and the rather crude villainy of the wicked personages seemed too much for the patience of some spectators in the pit and gallery, the piece fairly retrieved itself. The turning point perhaps was the situation at the end of the second act, wherein the persecuted wife is driven by the effrontery and falsehood of her husband from a peaceful home in which she had found a shelter and a kind benefactor. But it would be unjust to deny that the triumph was in great degree that of the scene-painter and machinist. In permitting their play to wait upon the convenience of these indispensable personages the authors have undoubtedly exhibited a wise precaution. The sudden conversion of the old house at Rotherhithe into the scene of the old sluice-house and flood-gates, against which the ruthless Redcliffe ties his wife, and leaves her to drown with the rising tide; and again into the moonlight view of the Thames, whereon the boat advances bringing Biddlecombe and Gipsy Tom to the rescue, wrought an audience presumptively not unused to scenic marvels to a high pitch of enthusiasm; but this after all was only one in a long series of elaborate scenic changes. The play itself wants no doubt the even balance between the grave and the gay which is needful in popular melodrama. The doleful condition of the wife is too little relieved; and her persistence in hoping for the reform of a husband whose crimes are flagrant and numberless, tends in the end to deprive her of sympathy. But Miss Amy Roselle’s impassioned acting in this part fairly atoned for many defects; and her final denunciation of her burglar husband, in a scene which may be said to be the denouement of “The Ticket-of-Leave Man,” with the wife instead of the husband for the saving influence, extorted a well-earned tribute of applause. Miss Harriett Jay’s ragged gipsy boy is an interesting and a consistent performance, with some gleams of true pathos; and Mr. Herbert Standing bestows on the odious part of Redcliffe a firm and vigorous handling. A rather pale yet amusing imitation of the late Mr. Harry Jackson’s humorous hypocritical rogue was contributed by Mr. Percy Bell, and Mrs. Juliet Anderson played the part of an Irish orange woman with a rich brogue and plenty of humour. Mr. Leonard Boyne’s Biddlecombe was rather too demonstrative in the John Browdie fashion, but he was altogether a manly and acceptable husband in store for the unhappy Mrs. Redcliffe. Among the numerous other names in the bill we may mention those of Mr. Gilbert Farquhar, Mr. Tresahar, Miss Grace Marsden, and Miss Nellie Palmer as satisfactorily playing less prominent parts. The authors and the leading performers were called before the curtain at the close of what was, on the whole, a highly-successful commencement of Mrs. Conover’s winter season.

___

 

Bell’s Life In London (3 November, 1885 - p.4)

“ALONE IN LONDON.”
_____

     The Olympic Theatre, which reopened last night under very favourable auspices, has been very much improved structurally, and has also been redecorated and refitted in a sumptuous and tasteful manner. Ample and comfortable accommodation is now provided for all classes of playgoers, the pit especially being much enlarged, giving ease and space to the community who form the backbone of all theatrical audiences. The decorations of the theatre have been designed with finished taste, and carried out in the most perfect manner, and it may now be considered quite a model Thespian structure. Last night was produced, for the first time in England, a new and realistic drama, entitled “Alone in London,” written by Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriet Jay. Though never previously performed in this country, it has been running for some time in America, having first seen the light at the Chestnut-street Theatre, Philadelphia, on the 30th March. Before criticising the drama we will give a brief resumé of the story.
     The Prologue occurs in the Keeper’s Lodge, Uppington, Suffolk, where we become acquainted with the heroine, Annie Meadows, the keeper’s daughter (Miss Amy Roselle), and her two lovers, John Middlecomb, and honest miller (Mr Leonard Boyne), and Richard Redcliffe, an unscrupulous adventurer (Mr H. Standing). Naturally the heroine chooses the fine Londoner, after being warned against him by Tom Chickweed, a waif and stray (Miss Harriet Jay) who has been previously cruelly treated by the callous-hearted Redcliffe. Six years elapse between the prologue and the first act. Then we find Redcliffe in his true character of a swell mobsman, living with his wife and child in a low lodging-house in Drury-lane. The scene then changes to a very realistic scene of Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament by night. Here, by one of those fine probabilities which appear to be the prerogative of modern melodramatic writers, the majority of the dramatis personæ meet in quite a pleasant and casual manner. Tom Chickweed, the waif, who is the Deus aux machina of the piece, is instrumental in the apprehension of Richard Redcliffe. The second act introduces us to “The Lilacs,” Thames Ditton, the residence of Mr Burnaby, a philanthropic old gentleman, who has taken pity upon Redcliffe’s wife, whom he has met accidentally in the street. Eighteen months are supposed to have elapsed, and Richard Redcliffe, whose term of imprisonment is over, turns up. Nan, as his wife is now called, refuses to betray her husband, with the result that he becomes intimate with old Burnaby’s son Walter, a weak young man, whom he persuades to forge his father’s name, and also makes love to the latter’s cousin and affianced, Ruth Clifden, who inherits a large fortune. In the third act Nan’s old lover, John Middlecomb, turns up, and meeting with Tom Chickweed, the latter conducts him to the old house at Rotherhithe where Redcliffe’s wife and child are living in squalor and penury. Nan’s old lover learning from Tom Chickweed the treatment Nan has received from Redcliffe, keeps in the vicinity. The latter and two of his confederates have arranged to break into the Bank of Burnaby Brothers, at Croydon, feeling sure, that if caught, the forged acceptance of Burnaby’s son, which Redcliffe’s accomplice, Jenkinson, has sewn in the lining of his coat, will prove a safeguard in case of detection. The child is taken from his mother for the purpose of being put through the bars of the bank windows, and so enabled to open the back door to the would-be burglars. The mother, robbed of her child, faints, and is carried by the heartless Redcliffe to the Old Sluice House and Flood Gates in close proximity. There she is tied to a post, and the gates being opened she is in extreme peril of drowning, when John Middlecomb, directed by Tom Chickweed, arrives in a boat and rescues her.
     The last act transpires in the office of the Bank of Burnaby Brothers, at Croydon. Nan, who was so providentially rescued, determines that no harm shall befall her benefactor, and to that end, accompanied by Middlecomb and Tom Chickweed, she arrives at the Bank, and warns young Burnaby, who in turn warns his father. The burglars arrive and the child is put through the bars of the window only to fall into his mother’s arms. The door is then opened, and the burglars enter and fall into the trap prepared for them. Taken in the toils Redcliffe denounces young Burnaby as a forger. Nan, however, has previously abstracted the incriminating document, and when Jenkinson feels in the lining of his coat he finds it gone. Redcliffe then rushes on his wife, but is met by Tom Chickweed, who after a struggle stabs him with his own knife, and concludes the drama.
     The intelligent reader will very probably gather from this synopsis that the materials used by the author are not by any means original, nor is the structure of the play particularly ingenious. The dialogue, moreover, has very little pretensions to literary merit, and despite the applause of a portion of the audience, who evidently wished well to several well-known and competent artists, we cannot anticipate a successful or prolonged run for “Alone in London.” This we very much regret, for Mrs Conover has spared neither time, expense, nor trouble in the production, and the setting of the various scenes in ingenuity and effect—despite a few hitches unavoidable on a first night—may be said to be on a level with the most recent productions of its class in the capital. There was a sceptical and boisterous element in the pit, which seemed disinclined to find any good points in the drama. Of the artists, Mr Standing and Miss Amy Roselle do not appear to their usual advantage, their respective impersonations being rather out of their metiers. Mr Leonard Boyne played the part of the Suffolk miller in a frank, impassioned, and manly manner, albeit with a pronounced Yorkshire accent. Miss Harriet Jay gave a very capable and pathetic rendering of the waif, Tom Chickweed—a character which recalls somewhat vividly Miss Jennie Lee’s “Jo”; and Mr Percy Bell did very well as Redcliffe’s elderly accomplice, Jenkinson, a  character, be it said, which occasioned reminiscences of a similar personage in “The Silver King.” On the fall of the curtain Miss Harriet Jay and Mr Buchanan were called in front, but candour compels us to state that the compliment was of a very dubious nature.

___

 

The Morning Post (3 November, 1885 - p.3)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.
_____

     A bold attempt to win public favour at this rather unlucky house was made last night in the production of the drama, by Miss Harriet Jay and Mr. Robert Buchanan, of “Alone in London”—a long four-act piece of the same type as those which have won so much favour at the Adelphi, Princess’s, and Surrey Theatres. The venture was bold, and save the difficulties that must naturally attend the attempt to rival the larger houses by means of revolving scenes and panoramic effects where one succeeds another in rapid succession, as in certain memorable parts of “In the Ranks.” The authors here, though, have not been so successful as those of the above-mentioned piece, for “Alone in London” is very much wanting in originality of plot, writing, and treatment. It is simply the story of a Suffolk keeper’s daughter, who refuses the hand of a true-hearted rustic swain to accept that of a handsome, gentlemanly scoundrel, one of a London gang masquerading in the country. The fellow knows that she possesses money, and is successful in landing the prize. This constitutes the prologue. The four acts that follow take place after a supposed lapse of six years, and in that space the heroine has been brought to the lowest pitch of degradation by her scamp of a husband, who is following the career of a thief and murderer, while the poor wife earns a scanty subsistence by selling flowers in the streets to keep herself and boy in a common lodging-house. She is, however, befriended by a poor vagabond whom she succoured in happier days—a boy who had tramped down from London and fallen ill. This boy is a sort of Joe of “Bleak House” celebrity, is always at hand to lend money, give information, and bring help to the wretched woman. He saves her from her husband once by denouncing him to the police, and during the scoundrel’s imprisonment the wife is rescued from the streets by a philanthropist, but her evil genius finds her at the end of his sentence, and, in pursuit of a new plan of villainy, denounces her, is believed, and she is dragged back to her recent slavery. The third act contains the strong sensation peculiar to this class of drama, and gives a representation of the Inventions, an old house in Rotherhithe, a moonlit view of the Thames, and a sluice-house and flood-gates, where the husband binds the wretched wife to a pile, and opens the gates. This is an ingenious set. The gates yawn wide and the water rises, but she is saved, after a “sensation header,” by the old lover, who arrives as usual in the nick of time. The husband has gone off to engage in a burglary with his companions, and instead of plunder there is nemesis. In such a piece as this good acting is rather thrown away, but Miss Amy Roselle played the persecuted woman with a great deal of power and pathos, her scenes with her country lover, a rough Suffolk miller, being particularly good, while the miller, as played by Mr. Leonard Boyne, was one of the most successful parts of the piece. Mr. Herbert Standing is well suited with a part as the villain, and plays with a great deal of force. Miss Harriet Jay was not so successful as the waif, being stagey and wanting in the simple truthfulness to nature such a part demands. The rest of the performance calls for no special mention, being of the type familiar in pieces of this class, which is far behind what might be expected from the authors, whose aim seems to have been to travel in the old-fashioned rut of former dramatic authors, in place of striking out something original and novel for the stage. “Alone in London” was seen at a great disadvantage last night from the difficulties that beset the scene-shifting, and the unfair and discordant interruptions that assailed the actors. For, though it cannot be called a strong drama, it is equal to many that have secured runs, and when the smoothness of a few nights’ practice has been achieved, it will, no doubt, find favour with many as a popular play.

___

 

The Standard (3 November, 1885 - p.5)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.
_____

     After two postponements Alone in London was last night produced at the Olympic Theatre. The piece, written by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriet Jay, proves to be a melodrama of the most commonplace description. Familiar stage figures appear in familiar situations. Alone in London bears a close resemblance to scores of plays which have been acted of recent years at the outlying theatres, and the demeanour of the audience last night seemed to suggest that works of this class are rapidly becoming worn out. There is a country girl named Annie Meadows, who has two lovers, one a swell mobsman and the other a rustic miller, as virtuous as country lovers always are. She prefers the rogue Redcliffe, marries him, is brought to London, and passes through those episodes of sorrow and hardship which are the inevitable lot of the heroines of melodrama. Before her marriage she befriended a waif named Tom Chickweed, and he it is who seeks to help her when she is “alone in London.” The scenes include a low lodging-house in Drury-lane, where Annie, now a flower girl, has her quarters, and here her husband is found with an old ruffian and a young rascal, the three strongly suggesting the Spider and his accomplices in The Silver King. After being rescued by a benevolent old banker, Mr. Burnaby, and taken to his house as a servant, the wife is again cast adrift by the villainy of her husband; and at length this monster of iniquity tries to kill her. This sensation scene is ineffectively contrived, the audience scarcely understanding by what means Redcliffe proposes to do the murder, which he very suddenly and hastily resolves upon. Annie is carried to an old sluice-house, bound to a beam, and then Redcliffe turns on the water. It is naturally the function of the miller to come in a boat and release her. Finally, Redcliffe and his accomplices are caught in a trap while breaking into Mr. Burnaby’s bank. The piece is elaborately put upon the stage. The scenes are twisted, turned, and reversed; chairs and tables glide about till they disappear; there are views of Westminster Bridge, a Villa on the Thames, the Inventions Exhibition, the Thames by Moonlight, and the Old Sluice House aforesaid. But though these were all applauded as they were disclosed, a genuine tendency to make light of the sentiment and to deride the sensational incidents was plainly perceptible, and on more than one occasion displeasure was unmistakeably manifested. The principal character, Annie Meadows, was acted with considerable cleverness by Miss Amy Roselle. The lady threw herself into the character with much energy, and with a degree of feeling which was remarkable, considering how artificial the whole business is. Such a part could not have been better done. Mr. Herbert Standing as the villain Redcliffe, and Mr. Boyne as the honest miller, showed a complete knowledge of the requirements of melodrama. Miss Jay, one of the authors, took for herself the part of Tom Chickweed, but her robust manner and want of sincerity—a strong disposition to staginess, in fact—prevented the character from being sympathetic. Mr. Gilbert Farquhar gave a careful sketch of the benevolent Mr. Burnaby; this young actor has made a distinct advance since he was last seen in London. Miss Grace Marsden played gracefully and naturally as Ruth Clifden, the banker’s niece. Though somewhat amateurish, Mrs. Juliet Anderson showed good intentions as a kind-hearted old orange woman; the part, indeed, was on the whole well done. Mr. Tresahar, Mr. Percy Bell, and Miss Nellie Palmer, were also included in the cast. At the end, the authors were called before the curtain, but approval was far from being unanimous.

___

 

The Globe (3 November, 1885 - p.6)

OLYMPIC THEATRE.

     After many postponements, “Alone in London,” a drama of Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, in a prologue and four acts, which has been performed in many American cities and once in England, has now appeared at the Olympic. Its reception on its first production was one of the stormiest of modern days, but the verdict pronounced was not, on the whole, or even in the main, unfavourable. So far as the opinion of the malcontents could make itself understood, it was to this effect, that the intrusion into a melodrama of negro songs and banjo playing was resented, and that the effort to substitute scenic effects, however elaborate, for dramatic action, was held to be unworthy of the stage. This view is sound, and may not be opposed. The public however has hitherto been so indulgent in such matters that it has itself to thank if people have gone too far in the attempt to cater for what seemed a pronounced taste, and the management that finds things received with execration which were once hailed with delight has at least reason to complain of the fickleness of its audience. It may be doubted, indeed,  whether the first verdict, or it is, perhaps, more just to say the verdict of a portion of the audience attracted on the first night, is final, and whether subsequent audiences will not receive with favour a class of entertainment which hitherto, at least, has not appeared distasteful to it. Scenery so elaborate has never previously been put upon a small stage. In the first and second acts, mechanical arrangements sufficiently complicated to have inspired wonder a few years ago are introduced; while in the third act the double exchange that is accomplished for transferring the action from an old house at Rotherhithe to a sluice house with flood gates, which the hero sets open for the purpose of drowning his wife, would do credit to Drury Lane or the Princess’s.
     “Alone in London” is not easy to characterise. It is built on the most familiar lines of melodrama. Resemblances to a score of previous pieces may be traced, the strongest probably being to the “Two Orphans.” Country innocence is brought to London, betrayed, persecuted, subjected to many forms of outrage, and at last redeemed. In this we have the fall of the heroine attributable to her having the misfortune to choose for husband, in preference to a worthy miller, a scamp from London, who proves to be a thief and a murderer. Once launched on the sea of London life, her bark seems ever on the point of foundering. The hopeless wife is, however, anything but alone. She has a child, who is, it is true, a cause of anxiety rather than of solace, two or three friends in humble life who bring her sympathy rather than aid, one London waif who is unwearying in effort on her behalf, and at last by a lucky blow frees her from her villainous husband, and an old love, who only “comes in at the death,” but does yeoman’s service. If her allies are numerous, so also are her enemies, whose malignancy is only equalled by their power of ubiquity. There are some good notions in the piece, and certain scenes are sufficiently thrilling. The manner in which the heroine escapes and the final capture of the miscreants are cleverly arranged. The piece is, indeed, an olla podrida, with abundance of good meat in it, but with some condiments not wholly to the public taste. It is probable that the final storm would have been escaped had the wholly superfluous songs, dances, and what not with which the authors have charged their piece, been omitted. Playwrights seem slow to recognise the fact that in the modern realistic drama such accessories are seen to be confessions of weakness. All that acting can do to give “Alone in London” the best chance of success has been done. There is scarcely a character which is not well played, and certain actors have never been seen to equal advantage. Nothing Mr. Leonard Boyne has done is quite so good as the presentation of the rich young miller by whom finally the heroine is rescued. It is a piece of manly, earnest, conscientious acting, charged and warmed throughout with passion. Miss Amy Roselle, as the heroine, also acts her best, and how good that best is the playgoer knows. Her energy and earnestness quite subdued the audience. Miss Harriett Jay gave a remarkably intelligent and effective representation of a street waif. She also has never played better, and has, indeed, made a distinct advance on an art that she has at length fully mastered. To Mr. Herbert Standing is assigned one of the most unsympathetic characters ever taken. With admirable conscientiousness Mr. Standing went through with it, showing all that was repulsive, and accepting, as he had a right, as praise the volley of hisses which his appearance provoked. Mr. Gilbert Farquhar gave an eminently faithful and artistic representation of a rich and benevolent old banker, showing in the part a vein of genuine and acceptable comedy. Mr. Percy Bell was excellent as a species of benevolent thief, who might be a descendant of the famous Ephraim Jenkinson. Mr. Tresahar, Mr. Clarence Hague, Miss Nellie Palmer, and Mrs. Juliet Anderson were good in their respective parts, one or two of them succeeding in assigning individuality to rather difficult characters. The scenery, meanwhile, was as good as it was elaborate, scene after scene eliciting loud applause. Nothing, indeed, could be better than the mounting. The principal actors were summoned at the close of each act, and at the fall of the curtain Mr. Buchanan and Miss Jay appeared, to listen to a mixed greeting of cheers and groans.

aloneadtimes02

[Advert from The Times (4 November, 1885 - p.8).]

 

The Shields Daily Gazette (4 November, 1885 - p.3)

     Mr Robert Buchanan—kindly accompanied by Miss Harriett Jay—is responsible for a few score “God bless you’s,” and at least a dozen invocations of the Deity, in the play produced at the Olympic this week. All the rest is due to Sims, Pettitt, Conquest, Jones, Herman, the great Augustus, and the carpenters.
     The title is original, but it is inappropriate. So far from being “Alone in London,” the afflicted heroine has troops of friends at her command—nigger minstrels, who are even willing to oblige with a song and a breakdown when the action flags a little—an orange-woman—who does a brisk trade in moral reflections, pointed by an uplifted forefinger—a London waif who fires off a volley of “God bless you’s” on the slightest provocation—to say nothing of a charitable banker, his son, niece, and domestics. The audience, however, was thoroughly in sympathy with the shower of pious charity which deluged the piece from beginning to end, and though they were inclined to kick at the Irishwoman, and to dismiss the banker—who bore a striking resemblance to Mr Carvell Williams—with a patronising “Good-bye—good-bye”—they came round to a duly edified frame of mind, and greeted the amiable sentiments with rounds of applause.

___

 

The Dundee Courier and Argus (5 November, 1885 - p.3)

     If Mr Robert Buchanan’s new play at the Olympic is not a success the failure will have to be attributed to the fact that there are at present more dramas of this description in London than there is a demand for. “Alone in London” is no better than “Human Nature” at Drury Lane, or than “Hoodman Blind” at the Princess’s, or than “Dark Days” at the Haymarket, and it has not the personal advantages which those plays have earned from the actors responsible for their performance or the managers who have produced them. At the same time “Alone in London” is a clever play, and by itself would draw. I do not attach much importance to the fact that Mr Buchanan’s dramatic productions have hitherto been unsuccessful. His present effort is not perfect, and is even now undergoing change in the form of emendation. It is essentially a stage carpenters’ and scenic artists’ play.

___

 

The Stage (6 November, 1885 - p.14)

OLYMPIC.

     On Monday, November 2, 1885, was produced here a new realistic drama of English life, in a prologue and four  acts, by Robert Buchanan and Harriett Jay, entitled:—

Alone in London.

John Biddlecomb    ...    ...    Mr. Leonard Boyne
Richard Redcliffe    ...    ...    Mr. Herbert Standing
Mr. Burnaby            ...     ...     Mr. Gilbert Farquhar
Walter Burnaby       ...    ...    Mr. Clarance J. Hague
Spriggins                  ...     ...     Mr. J. Tresahar
Jenkinson                ...    ...    Mr. Percy Bell
Dick Johnson           ...     ...     Mr. Dalton Somers
Nan                        ...    ...    Miss Amy Roselle
Tom Chickweed      ...     ...     Miss Harriett Jay
Ruth Clifden             ...     ...     Miss Grace Marsden
Lizy Jenkinson         ...    ...    Miss Nellie Palmer
Mrs. Moloney           ...     ...     Mrs. Juliet Anderson
Little Paul                ...    ...    Miss Marie Bushling
Susan                      ...    ...    Miss Adah Cox

     Dame Fortune has not hitherto smiled on Mrs. Conover since that enterprising lady undertook the management of the Olympic Theatre. Failure after failure has greeted her efforts so far, but in spite of all, the managerial motto, “Nil Desperandum,” has at length been rewarded. We do not go so far as to say that the new drama by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay is by any means a perfect play, or that it is likely to prove a gold-mine to its proprietors. But it is a step in the right direction. It shows Mrs. Conover to be still determined to do all in her power to please the public. There is much good material in the new piece, the company engaged to interpret it is generally an excellent one, and the scenery is all, and perhaps more, than could be desired. So far so good; energy and enterprise have done their utmost. What is chiefly wanted in connection with this production, and it needs no great experience to perceive the want, is the hand of a master in the mechanism of stage craft. It is not given to mortal man to excel in all things, and poets, literary men, and novel writers, seldom, if ever, make good playwrights. Here, then, we touch upon the defect of Alone in London. No one disputes the literary ability of Mr. Robert Buchanan, and it is an equally indisputable fact that the new play of which he is the joint author possesses many good points. Yet the lack of knowledge of the stage and stage-effects is constantly apparent in his work. It is a risky experiment to introduce a Christy minstrel song and dance into a scene in order to give it “local colour;” it is injudicious to keep your hero off the stage during two entire acts, and it is a bad thing to end your drama with a murder so that an ill-used woman may be able to marry a wealthy miller who has loved her all along. This is cutting the Gordian knot with a vengeance. There is, however, plenty of honest material in the drama which may work into a success if immediately and judiciously cut and altered by a practised hand. We have seen many a far worse piece enjoy a long run on the Metropolitan stage.
     The prologue opens in Suffolk, where Annie Meadows, fascinated by the attentions of an adventurer, Richard Redcliffe, promises to marry him, leaving honest John Biddlecomb, a well-to-do miller, considerably cut-up at her engagement to the Londoner. Redcliffe turns out to be a consumate scoundrel. He ill-treats his wife and child most shamefully, reducing them to starvation and all the horrors of a life of degradation and poverty in the streets of London. Two acts out of the four of which the play proper consists are devoted to detailing the miseries of Nan Redcliffe and Little Paul, and it is not until the third act that the drama begins to move. Here there is a strong scene, in which the swell- mobsman, Richard Redcliffe, plans with his companions a burglary, and proposes to employ his own child—an incident obviously imitated from “Oliver Twist”—to aid him in the crime by creeping through the window bars of a bank and opening the office door. The mother naturally resents her child being used for such a nefarious practice, and her husband, infuriated by her resistance, carries her off to a Thames sluice-house near by, and opens the flood-gates on her, thus leaving her in danger of death by drowning, a fate from which she is rescued by the prompt appearance of her old lover, who has been summoned to her assistance by a signal—the extinguishing of a light—unconsciously given by Redcliffe himself. The last act is probably the best of the lot, save for its ending. The bank is to be robbed, the child is pushed through the window—and falls into his mother’s arms!—and when Redcliffe and his fellow-burglar walk into the bank they meet John Biddlecomb, and are in a fair way of being handed over to justice, when Redcliffe is stabbed to the heart by a waif whom he had injured years before, and who is tacked on to the skirts of the drama without any very real reason. We have had quite enough poor Jo on the stage and to spare, and Gipsy Tom alias Tom Chickweed might easily be dispensed with, so far as the play is concerned, and greatly to its improvement. There is no use in making a character of this sort so prominent, even supposing it to be at all necessary, which we very much doubt, and even granted that it is well acted. In the hands of Miss Harriett Jay the part becomes tiresome, for the lady is not sympathetic, and she is distinctly not suited to the character, for she is “more than common tall for a woman” on the stage.
     The acting success of the play has been achieved, beyond question, by Mr. Leonard Boyne, whose portrayal of John Biddlecomb is marked by manliness, sincerity, and keen insight into character. He is the honest, loving miller to the life, and is never maudlin. His make-up is capital, the difficulty incidental to an actor wearing a beard being completely overcome. This is Mr. Boyne’s first original part in London for a number of years, and he may be heartily congratulated on his success in it. Mr. Herbert Standing is also of great service to the play as the suave scoundrel, Richard Redcliffe, and Miss Amy Roselle plays the heroine with admirable pathos. Mr. Percy Bell is quite good second villain to Redcliffe, Mr. Gilbert Farquhar is easy and polished as a philanthropic old banker, Miss Grace Marsden shows great intelligence in a small part, and Mrs. Juliet Anderson appears as an Irish woman. Other speaking parts are well filled by Mr. Clarance J. Hague, Mr. J. Tresahar, Mr. Dalton Somers, Miss Adah Cox, and Miss Nellie Palmer. Mr. Bruce Smith’s scenery is perfect in its way; whether it is all necessary or not is another matter.

___

 

Pall Mall Gazette (7 November, 1885 - pp.3-4)

     It is the season of “guys” and “guying,” and Mr. Robert Buchanan has dressed up a most effective “organized-opposition” bugbear with which he seeks to frighten managers and stir up the indignation of the public. His case is specious, and if all he alleges is exact, there can be no doubt that on the second night of his drama at the Olympic the management was victimized (rather weakly) by a small gang of blackmailers. As to the first night, however, he proves nothing except that certain incidents and speeches in his play displeased the audience. The allegation that the disapproval was directed against a particular actor must seem quite incredible to any one who was present at the Olympic on Monday night. The audience (and not the gallery alone but the pit as well) objected to a certain interlude and ridiculed certain characters and speeches. As the interlude was puerile, and the characters and speeches ridiculous, it needed no organized opposition to do this. It may be, however, that there was an organized opposition. We do not deny the assertion. We merely note the singular fact that in this case, as in all others, the opposition chose a very mediocre piece of work to vent its wrath upon. No one ever heard of a really good play meeting with “organized opposition.”

___

 

The Era (7 November, 1885)

THE OLYMPIC.
On Monday Evening, November 2d, the New and Realistic
Drama of English Life, in a Prologue, Four Acts, and Ten
Tableaux, by Robert Buchanan and Harriett Jay, entitled
“ALONE IN LONDON.”

John Biddlecomb    ...    ...    Mr LEONARD BOYNE
Annie Meadows      ...     ...     Miss AMY ROSELLE
Jack Wood            ...    ...    Mr CHUDLEIGH
Richard Redcliffe    ...    ...    Mr HERBERT STANDING
Spriggins                  ...     ...     Mr TRESAHAR
Jenkinson                ...    ...    Mr PERCY BELL
Mat                        ...    ...    Mr DANIELS
Mr. Burnaby            ...     ...     Mr GILBERT FARQUHAR
Walter Burnaby       ...    ...    Mr CLARANCE J. HAGUE
Ruth Clifden             ...     ...     Miss GRACE MARSDEN
Liz Jenkinson          ...    ...    Miss NELLIE PALMER
Dick Johnson           ...     ...     Mr DALTON SOMERS
Little Paul                ...    ...    Miss MARIA BUSHLING
Tom Chickweed      ...     ...     Miss HARRIETT JAY
Mrs. Moloney         ...    ...    Mrs JULIET ANDERSON
Blind Billie               ...    ...    Mr HARLOWE
The Lame Duck      ...    ...    Mr J. SMITH
Jim the Larker         ...    ...    Mr CLARKE
Ballad Singer            ...     ...     Mr HARDING
Isaacs                     ...    ...    Mr HIDER
Robert                     ...     ...     Mr MORLEY
Inspector of Police  ...    ...    Mr BENSON
David                      ...     ...     Mr R. PITT
Susan                      ...     ...     Miss ADAH COX

     Mrs Conover, not yet dismayed by repeated failure, has recently spent a considerable sum in the redecoration and alteration of the interior of this unfortunate establishment, which is once more bright and wholesome, and which now boasts an enlarged pit with a splendid “rake,” giving every visitor to that part of the house a fine view of the stage. The reopening took place on the evening of Monday last, when Mr Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay’s realistic drama named above was presented to a house crowded in every part. The drama comes to us with a good character from America, having been successfully produced in March last at the Chestnut-street Theatre, Philadelphia. The authors appear to think, with the lessee of our national theatre, that to be realistic is to be true to nature, and to be natural is to be artistic. If this dogma has anything of truth in it then is Alone in London one of the most artistic productions the stage has seen in many years. Its ultra-realism, however, was not quite to the taste of a large section of Monday night’s audience, and as early as the commencement of the act following the prologue a very strong opposition set in, and threatened not only condemnation for the authors, but further disaster for the plucky manageress. Matters, however, soon mended, and, although it was generally considered that there was in almost every scene somewhat too great a piling up of the agony, it was also generally admitted that the pruning knife, judiciously and liberally used, would transform Alone in London into a very fair specimen of plays of its class, and one very likely to attract and amuse those playgoers who are not too critically inclined, and who are not too particular about the probability of the incidents placed before them so long as their eyes are feasted with mechanical changes in advance of anything they have seen before. “We don’t ask yer for grammar,” shouted the gods of the Vic., “but, hang it all, yer might jine yer flats.” Similarly popular audiences will not question about the dramatic unities, or argue too closely about the why and the wherefore, while Mr Bruce Smith and the machinist and the stage-manager turn a thieves kitchen in Drury-lane into Westminster-bridge and the Houses of Parliament by night, and the interior of an old house at Rotherhithe into the old Sluice House and Flood Gates on the Thames below bridge. Alone in London is in a prologue and four acts.
     In the prologue, the scene of which is in Suffolk, we see how Annie Meadows, a gamekeeper’s daughter, in spite of the warning given to her by Gipsy Tom, a London waif, whom she has befriended, accepts the proffered love of a scoundrel named Richard Redcliffe, and rejects that of John Biddlecomb, a young and honest-hearted and well-to-do miller whom she has known from her childhood. The prologue being ended six years are supposed to elapse, and we are taken to a low lodging-house in Drury-lane, where we learn that poor Annie has been dragged down and down until she is compelled to gain a livelihood for herself and child by selling flowers in the streets, the greater part of her hard-earned wage being requisitioned by her disreputable husband, who is the leader of a gang of thieves. By Westminster Bridge she is taken in hand by a philanthropist—an old banker named Burnaby—who curiously enough, without knowing anything of her character, presents her with a five-pound note, and offers to provide her with a comfortable situation. The note is speedily demanded by the rascally husband, and, as Annie, driven to desperation, talks of ending her troubles by suicide, Gipsy Tom, mindful of her kindness, determines to save her from this, and so calls the police, and, pointing out Richard Redcliffe as the man they have long wanted, causes him to be arrested and consigned to durance vile. Now eighteen months go by while the act-drop is down, and when it rises again we find Annie a superior servant in the house of Mr Burnaby at Thames Ditton. Her husband has gained his liberty, and has gained, too, the confidence of old Burnaby and the friendship of Burnaby, junior, whose well-to-do sweetheart Ruth Clifden he is scheming to secure for himself. He and one or two of his thieving associates are welcome guests in the house, and when Annie claims him as her husband her employer regards her as a lunatic, and forthwith turns her from his doors. The third act is full of curious adventures and startling surprises—so startling that the audience could only wonder and laugh. In the gardens of the Inventions Exhibition at South Kensington John Biddlecomb, the honest miller from Suffolk, whose love for Annie is not yet dead, encounters Richard Redcliffe, and gives him a £20 note with which to buy a present for his old sweetheart. Then he learns the true state of affairs from Gipsy Tom, who conducts him to Annie’s house at Rotherhithe. She refuses his generous offers to remove her from her miserable surroundings and from the power of her wicked husband, and then taking his departure he promises to sit up and watch the light that burns in her window. If that light is removed he will regard it as a signal that she is in need of assistance. Redcliffe and his associates, Spriggins and Jenkinson, now plan the robbery of Burnaby’s bank at Croydon, and congratulate one another upon the fact that, even if discovered, they will be perfectly safe, through the instrumentality of a bill forged by young Burnaby which Jenkinson carries about with him concealed in the lining of his coat. Annie, while mending the said coat, obtains possession of the bill and substitutes for it a worthless piece of paper. She is subsequently taken, while insensible, to “the old Sluice Gates” by her husband, who ties her to a post and lets loose the imprisoned waters with the full intention to drown her. John Biddlecomb, it may be guessed, comes in the nick of time to her rescue, and she is spared to spoil the burglarious game of her husband and his associates in Burnaby’s bank at Croydon, Richard Redcliffe falling at last by a knife in the hands of Gipsy Tom, whom by this time we have learnt to call Tom Chickweed.
     The best acting in the piece was undoubtedly supplied by Mr Leonard Boyne, whose John Biddlecomb was quite refreshing by the side of the scenes of squalor and rascality in which the author has liberally indulged. Indeed, one of the complaints we have to make is that Mr Buchanan has been so enamoured of his low-life characters that he has kept honest-hearted John Biddlecomb too much out of the picture. When he comes he welcome comes, and his heartiness, his generosity, and his humour as cleverly brought out by Mr Boyne won him abundant favour. Mr Herbert Standing as Richard Redcliffe, the leading scoundrel of the story, went through his work with a cool, easy, dare-devil swagger that brought the wicked husband’s wickedness into striking relief, and Richard’s associates in evil-doing, Spriggins and Jenkinson, were cleverly portrayed by Mr Tresahar and Mr Percy Bell, though we confess that of Jenkinson there is somewhat too much. Mr Gilbert Farquhar gave due prominence to the benevolence of Mr Burnaby, but we find it difficult to reconcile the philanthropy of the old gentleman in the first act with his harshness in the second. This, however, must not be laid to the account of the actor, whose success was beyond question. Mr Clarence J. Hague filled well the part of Burnaby, junior, the victim of the wiles of Richard Redcliffe; and Mr Dalton Somers displayed no small amount of humour as Dick Johnson, a peripatetic “professional,” whose efforts were well seconded by Miss Nellie Palmer as Liz Jenkinson, whom Johnson has taken to wife. Among the ladies Miss Amy Roselle was facile princeps, her acting as Annie Meadows being marked by much emotional power. Annie in the course of her troubles and her trials won the sympathies of the whole house, and, notably, in the scene of the second act where the wife exposes her villainous husband, and in that of the third, where she becomes defiant in the interest of her child, Miss Roselle moved her audience to admiration by her declamatory vigour. Miss Harriet Jay figured prominently in nearly every scene as the cripple Tom Chickweed, and she, too, contrived to win sympathy; while Mrs Juliet Anderson gave good interpretation to the part of Mrs Moloney, and honest-souled old Irishwoman, whose mouth is ever full of what Sir Oliver Surface would call “scraps of morality.” Mrs Anderson undoubtedly possesses histrionic ability, and should speedily become popular. The introduction of some Negro minstrelsy in the first act on Monday evening provoked a hostile demonstration and threatened disaster, but this was averted by the interest of the subsequent phases of the story, and by some elaborate stage pictures, that ought to satisfy the most exigent among the lovers of spectacular effects. For, be it said, the drama has been staged without regard to expense, and the scenes illustrative of Westminster-bridge and the Houses of Parliament by night, the gardens of the Inventions Exhibition, with the illuminated fountain, the Thames by moonlight, with view of London, and the old Sluice House and Floodgates, with some extraordinary mechanical changes, are more remarkable in their way than anything the Olympic stage has ever known. The verdict of the audience at the end was not quite unanimous, but we think it may be said that on the question of success or non-success the “ayes” had it.

___

 

The Athenæum (7 November, 1885 - No. 3028, p.613)

DRAMA
_____

THE WEEK.

     ST. JAMES’S—‘Mayfair,’ a Play in Five Acts. Adapted from
M. Sardou’s Play ‘Maison Neuve.’ By A. W. Pinero.

     OLYMPIC.—‘Alone in London,’ a Drama in a Prologue, Four
Acts, and Ten Tableaux. By Robert Buchanan and Harriett Jay.

. . .

     ‘Alone in London’ is a strange blending of plays already in existence. In its inception it bears a certain similarity to ‘The Lights o’ London,’ which the authors declare to be accidental, since the play later in the order of production is earlier in that of composition. Its characters resemble those in ‘The Silver King’ or in ‘The Ticket of Leave Man,’ its principal situation owes something to ‘The Colleen Bawn,’ and its concluding scene forcibly recalls the ‘Two Orphans.’ These things matter little, however. Made up as it is, the play is fairly stirring and ingenious, and has the elements of a success. Unfortunately for themselves, the authors have overburdened it with accessories of which the public has begun to tire. Nothing commends itself less to observation or to imagination than the idea that negro minstrels, after performing all day for their living, should, when they enter late at night a common lodging-house, go in pure animal spirits through the performance of which they are weary. The feeling of the educated spectator upon seeing this was strong regret, that of the general public was expressed by hisses. There are times when the action of ‘Alone in London’ becomes stimulating. The whole is buried, however, beneath scenery, and all thought of dramatic value is lost. It is pleasant to see a reaction against those elaborate and costly effects on which the producers of melodrama depend. Infinitely preferable to the new arrangement—which leaves the spectator in an atmosphere of bewilderment, half choked with escaping gas, to watch huge scenes revolve, carrying with them the actors, and to speculate on the chances of the performers being crushed in some collapse of scenery or of his own incineration as the result of the careless treatment of lights—is the method of a carpenter’s scene or a pair of flats. The very means devised to secure a triumph at the Olympic were the cause of opposition. Had the authors trusted wholly to the acting and to the merits of their drama they would have scored a success. Such opposition as was encountered was intended as a protest against the needless stoppage of action. With certain excisions the whole will still hold the public. One point in the action was misunderstood. It should be shown that the death blow of the villain-hero Richard Redcliffe is received in the course of a struggle with the waif, which is brought upon him by his effort to destroy his wife. As presented there seemed to be a purposeless attack upon the child, and this was resented by the public. The task of freeing from encumbrance a play like this should not be difficult. Some vigorous acting was of much service. Miss Amy Roselle has never been seen to greater advantage than as the heroine. Mr. Leonard Boyne acted with remarkable vigour and corresponding effect. As the heroine Miss Harriett Jay rendered the sorrows of the waif sufficiently touching. Mr. Herbert Standing played with equal care and effect in a totally unsympathetic character; and Mr. Tresahar, Mr. Gilbert Farquhar, (.........................) acquitted themselves well.

___

 

The Penny Illustrated Paper (7 November, 1885 - p.10)

     For the sake of Mrs. Conover’s spirit and enterprise in the direction of the Olympic, it is to be hoped that Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriet Jay will so revise their exciting melodrama, called “Alone in London,” as to win for it the run the best scenes in the new play entitled it to. It could not fail to be noticed, on Monday night, when “Alone in London” was at length produced, that the play was “lifted” directly the hero and heroine (most earnestly and most admirably played by Mr. Leonard Boyne and Miss Amy Roselle) entered. Obvious lesson: don’t omit the hearty young hero altogether for two acts, but work him into the action of the play as soon as possible after the prologue. With this vital improvement; with the omission altogether of the “walk round” of the nigger melodists in the thieves’ kitchen (soundly hissed, Monday night); and with an easily contrived transposition of the attempted burglary from the needless fourth act to the ultra-sensational third act, just before the crowning excitement of the opening of the sluice-gates, I fancy “Alone in London” would draw thousands to the Olympic this winter. Too much praise cannot be awarded to Miss Amy Roselle and Mr. Leonard Boyne for their earnest and vivacious, strong and pathetic representation of the central parts of Annie Meadows, the honest country lass lured into marriage by a handsome London swell-mobsman, and of John Biddlecomb, the steadfast young miller, who arrives in London in the nick of time to rescue his old sweetheart when she has been tied to a pile, and is in imminent danger of being drowned by her husband’s murderous opening of the sluice-gates. There are varied scenes of London life, such as the aforesaid Thieves’ Kitchen, Westminster Bridge by Night, the Gardens of the “Inventories,” and the Thames by Moonlight the last series of river tableaux being the latest crowning sensation of the ingenious Bruce Smith. There, as I have already said, the piece should end. It should be added that Miss Harriett Jay elicited much sympathy by her “Jo”-like performance of a city arab; and that Mr. Herbert Standing, Mr. Percy Bell, Mr. Tresahar, Mr. Gilbert Farquhar, Miss Nellie Palmer, Mr. Dalton Somers, and Miss Juliet Anderson (as Mrs. Moloney) strengthened the cast.

___

 

The Graphic (7 November, 1885 - p.8)

     The new play by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay, originally produced early this year in the United States with the title of Alone in London, was brought out for the first time in this country at the OLYMPIC Theatre on the occasion of the reopening of that house under the management of Mrs. Conover on Monday night. It is a tremendous melodrama in four acts and a prologue, demanding “ten tableaux,” and setting forth the horrible persecutions suffered by one Mrs. Redcliffe, with her little child, at the hands of her husband, a criminal of a daring and adventurous type. Though the play is called “realistic,” there is little trace to be discerned in it of that vigorous portraiture or freshness of invention which characterises Mr. Buchanan’s dramatic poems and stories. It is to be feared that from this point of view the play indicates Mr. Buchanan’s low estimate of the requirements of audiences rather than his conception of what a romantic drama ought to be. The play hurries the spectator on from scene to scene of horror and excitement in localities in London or its neighbourhood, which the scenic artists and machinists have depicted and built up with marvellous ingenuity, and few opportunities are neglected for exciting and harrowing the simple-minded playgoer. With all this, and in spite of the pathetic acting of Miss Amy Roselle as the persecuted heroine, and Miss Harriett Jay as a ragged street lad, and the force and sincerity of Mr. Herbert Standing’s impersonation of the scoundrel husband, the success of the piece was for some time doubtful. Even at the fall of the curtain, after a strongly dramatic fourth and fifth act, the malcontents were in considerable strength. There are some tokens that the system of piling Pelion upon Ossa in the way of scenic marvels and harrowing incidents is now well-nigh worn out. A simpler story of more concentrated interest set forth with the power that Mr. Buchanan and Miss Jay can exhibit on occasion would probably have secured them a less equivocal verdict.

___

 

The Illustrated London News (7 November, 1885 - p.6)

THE PLAYHOUSES.

“Organised opposition” again! Heedless of the fate of poor Mr. James Albery, and other impulsive authors who rushed to the front to declare as a belief what they could not possibly prove as a fact, the management of the Olympic has, in an address to the public, committed itself to the same rash statement in connection with the new drama “Alone in London.” What evidence may have been forthcoming in connection with an “organised opposition” at the Olympic Theatre against Mr. Buchanan (a popular author), Miss Harriett Jay (a clever lady), and Mrs. Conover (a respected manageress), no doubt we shall all know in good time. But to those who have studied audiences for many years, there was no more disturbance or difference of opinion than is generally found on a popular first night. Experience tells us that if there is ever any organisation in connection with first representations it is on the part of a claque, and not a cabal; and it is this very organisation that causes irritation and creates disturbance. A noisy audience assembled to hear the new play. The pit was indignant, I think very naturally, at the production of a comedietta, wholly unworthy of the character of the theatre, in the early part of the evening. They expressed their indignation in the usual way. Bad acting, combined with silly plays, unfortunately creates opposition; but for all this I still maintain that an English audience is the fairest in the world. Was there not an example of it in this very play? The last act of “Alone in London” is the very best in the drama, and it was listened to with profound attention. You might have heard a pin drop. The author had fairly gripped the attention of his audience. The scene, that of the robbery of a bank, where the well-known episode from “Oliver Twist” of putting a boy through the window to assist the burglars, was cleverly managed; the meeting of the child with its mother at this vital moment was found exciting; and the acting all round was at its best throughout this act. Had it not been for the unfortunate introduction of the murder of the villain by an obtrusive waif, in whom the audience is in no way interested, the curtain would have fallen on immense applause. By this time, no doubt, certain alterations have been made that will materially improve the prospects of the new play. As it stands, it is full of adventure and variety. Some of the dramatic suggestions in it are excellent, though they are not always completely worked out. In design it is often better than in execution. A story, whose heroine is a woman cajoled from a happy home by a bad man, reduced to beggary and starvation, hidden in a St. Giles’s cellar, whose heart is broken, and whose only child is abducted in order to  be made a thief, is sure to enlist the sympathies of any audience. To see her protect her child with the fury of a tigress with her cruel husband as an assailant, to witness her fainting under the supreme effort of energy, torn from her home, lashed to a post in a sluice-house on the Thames, and eventually rescued by her old faithful lover from home is to secure the sympathies of any English audience, whether organised for praise or blame. Lucky, indeed, is it for any author when for such a heroine an actress of such emotional power as Miss Amy Roselle is secured. A drama of this pattern cannot go very far wrong when an actress so experienced and an artist so accomplished is engaged upon it. Scenery and scenic effects, revolving pictures, mechanical changes, and so on, sink into insignificance beside an actress so spirited and sympathetic. Herein lies the heart of a drama; on this and this alone depends its success. Miss Amy Roselle might act between four pieces of undecorated canvas. She would succeed just as well as in a gilded palace that had cost hundreds of pounds to decorate. As a matter of fact, her best scene is in a cellar that did not cost a fortune to construct or adorn. Excellent also, natural, hearty, and manly, was Mr. Leonard Boyne in the character of the honest Suffolk miller, who is rejected by the heroine at the outset and remains faithful to her to the end. The dramatist, indeed, would have improved his play had he made better use of his hero. Miss Harriett Jay plays very earnestly and with a great deal of intelligence as a waif who dogs the footsteps of all the vicious characters and brings them to punishment. She is the embodiment of fate. She is the justice that lurks at their heels. She is the shadow of impending disaster. But after all John Biddlecombe is the hero of the play, and a story so persistently sad requires all the relief of cheeriness that it can get. The sorrows of the heroine are almost sufficient without the added calamity of the poor lad’s deformity and unending depression. Contrast is essential in all drama. An ounce of sweet must neutralise every ounce of sour. And so one regrets not to see more of John Biddlecombe. he wakes up the play directly he appears on the scene; but then he is acted with intense fervour and nature by Mr. Leonard Boyne, a young actor who certainly does not belong to the milk-and-water school, nor, on the other hand, is he unduly rhetorical and aggressive in sentiment. He is a pleasant, unaffected, natural actor, and his performance of John Biddlecombe is a great and deserved success. In these days the villain appears to be the hero of modern melodrama. Mr. Willard’s success has sown a crop of audacious scoundrels—unblushing, unscrupulous fellows, who make vice heroic, and whose cleverness is suggestively fascinating. Mr. Herbert Standing is the last of these gentry who are sketched with so much force and fidelity. He acts the part with a nonchalance that is astounding, and with an ease that is in the highest sense artistic. Young actors appear to revel in these sketches of moral depravity. We have Mr. Brookfield at the St. James’s, as a man-about-town, enunciating sentiments that make one shudder, and courting laughter by opinions revolting in their shameless audacity. We have Mr. Herbert Standing, at the Olympic, boldly blustering out ideas which are only too true in real life. In the drama of Nature such things must be; but it must often occur to the spectator that there is subtle danger when the villain hero is played so well that he makes crime and moral turpitude absolutely fascinating. There is the material for an essay in that idea. Mr. Gilbert Farquhar played a small character with excellent emphasis, discretion, and address. He has an excellent voice—a refined and telling voice—that he knows how to use. This same gift of a good voice is also possessed by a Miss Grace Marsden, a new-comer, who promises to be a very useful actress. She created a good impression on her audience, and has made an excellent start.
     The performance of Mr. Arthur Roberts as Ben Barnacle in the merry opera of “Billee Taylor” at the Gaiety is well worth seeing. In fact, it is by far the most humorous performance yet given by this amusing actor. Mr. Roberts no longer acts himself, but a character. The old stage-sailor in the “penny-plain-and-twopence-coloured” pictures of our infancy is reproduced with wonderful effect. Every attitude, each grimace is ludicrous in the extreme. In fact, so funny is the acting that it may be found advisable to place “Billee Taylor” as the second piece of the evening instead of the first. If “all London” can flock to see a man on a bicycle at one singing-hall, and a “sensation donkey” at another, they will surely return again to their favourite recreation to see some genuine comic acting and a very amusing play. Miss Marion Hood makes a charming damsel who turns sailor to follow her faithless swain.
                                                                                                                                                         C. S.

_____

 

Alone in London in London - continued

or back to Alone in London main menu

 

Home
Biography
Bibliography

 

Poetry
Plays
Fiction

 

Essays
Reviews
Letters

 

The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

 

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay
Miscellanea

 

Links
Site Diary
Site Search