THIS EVENT HAS TAKEN PLACE
Members and others unable to attend our December lecture missed a treat. Our year end lecture has always tried to reflect the festive season and has often had a performance element. Since we named it the Maggie Collins Lecture to commemorate the great contribution which the late Margaret Collins made to the Society, not least in organising the lecture programme over many years, we have sought to maintain that tradition which she established. Last year we had a toy theatre performance and this year we had a specially devised and instructive entertainment about the eighteenth-century performer, composer and sometime theatre manager Charles Dibdin presented by David Timson and Jeremy Barlow.
Mr Timson, in the character of Dibdin writing his autobiography, recalled some of his theatrical past, especially his often fractious association with David Garrick, accompanied by Mr Barlow on an early form of pianoforte and making occasional interjections and amplifications in the character of an academic lecturer.
We heard how he wrote the music for Isaac Bickerstaffe's The Padlock and created the role of Mungo in it (a part later played by Ira Aldridge the subject of our January lecture which also presents performance), and of his play The Waterman, which had great success a few years later. He told us how Garrick taught him the role of Lord Ogleby in The Clandestine Marriage and offered his own imitation of Garrick performing and talked about Garrick at the bicentenary celebration of Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, giving a somewhat jaundiced view of that great actor and their stormy relationship, which he felt had hurt his own career. 'Had I been capable of that creeping adulation without which no man can arrive to a responsible position in the theatre,' he informed us, 'I might certainly now have been in possession of a decent appointment.'
We also heard from Dibdin about his writing The Seraglio for Mr Harris, the new manager at Covent Garden, for which he composed his first sea songs, of how the death of his elder brother at see became the inspiration for his famous song 'Tom Bowling' and told us about writing his first pantomime, The Touchstone, and his rejection of the interference and additions others wanted to make to it - accepting only those of Garrick and thus becoming reconciled with that actor.
In later life he devised a solo performance, a one-man show with just him and his pianoforte, in which he presented many of his own songs. It had great success touring the provinces. As 'lecturer' Barlow went on to tell us, it was eventually seen in London, and did well for a time, but then the public turned against it and he went back to touring. For a time he was given a pension in gratitude for or to encourage him to write more of the patriotic songs with which he is associated. After retiring from public life to a house in Arlington Street, Camden town, he was struck down by a stroke. In 1810 a subscription benefit raised over £600 for him but by the time he died in 1814 he was comparatively poor.
David Timson gave a spirited performance as Dibdin and was in good voice for the musical numbers, accompanied by the correct period sound on Mr Barlow's pianoforte and I feel sure the audience would have welcomed more but this was, after all, our Christmastide event, so the company retired to the antechamber to partake of mulled wine, mince pies and other seasonal refreshments for animated and convivial conversation.
Though this performance was specially devised for the occasion Mr Timson and Mr Barlow, under the name of Broadside Productions, also present a variety of entertainments based on Charles Dibdin and his music.
General Events Index
Richmond Conference (at which Jeremy Barlow is performing)
17th December 2007