The Society's committee in concert with the conference convenors has provided the membership with an exceptional year of celebration. The year got off to a fine start with the STR supported conference - John Rich and the Eighteenth Century Stage held at the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln Inn Fields - the site of Rich's theatre, where the first English musical 'The Beggar's Opera' was staged. The weekend concluded with a tour of the Garrick Club warmly hosted by members and STR members were able to view the club's exceptional collection 'of art works representing the history of the British Theatre'.
In February members travelled to The Hague to visit the Koninkliche Schouwburg (The Royal Theatre) where one of the lectures given was by Iain Mackintosh to learn about The 1911 competition for a design to replace the present theatre: architects Frank Matcham & Co. and Fellner and Helmer & Co. were finalists. In the event neither of the designs was implemented and so the eighteenth century theatre survived.
Later in June the STR held a Diamond Jubilee Weekend to celebrate the founding of the Society in June1948 at the Old Vic. On the first day a Study Day was held at the National Theatre Archive and on the following day the Society hosted a Garden Party at 'Garrick's Temple' at Hampton by the side of the River Thames. While celebratory champagne was sipped members enjoyed a charming concert entitled The Musick of London's Pleasure Gardens given by Earls' Court Baroque.
The Georgian Playhouse Conference at Richmond concluded the main celebrations of this anniversary year royally. The speakers offered a rich diversity of subject and scholarship: it was a unique event. Meeting in the most complete surviving Georgian theatre in England and, in addition to sharing a wealth of research, knowledge and experience, and witnessing a performance of a play by Garrick, provided a rare opportunity and great pleasure to all; the very theatre that in its early days unbelievably held audiences of more than 400: audiences who were able to witness performances by two of the greatest nineteenth century London actors, Edmund Kean (1819) and William Charles Macready (1821).
The current research into Georgian theatre between 1750 and 1850, as the conference revealed, is international, broad based, exciting and covers the many facets of theatre production and performance. With the example of Macready's Acis and Galetea and the descriptions of Clarkson Stanfield's scenery and lighting fresh in the imagination, it is sobering to remember that theatre practitioners at all levels in the Georgian period achieved standards of production and presentation, without the assistance of electricity and computers, that engaged and often amazed their contemporaries. The ingredients - the art and craft of staging and performance, imagination and industry and plenty of muscle; a stage first lit by candle, oil and later by gas: in tandem with a wide assortment of making skills; all combining with companies of actors, singers, dancers and musicians, recruited by busy actor-managers ever seeking to attract and please their audiences, and the authorities, with a changing repertoire of plays, old and new, in both provincial and London theatres.
The membership can look forward to further updates and news relating to a number of on-going projects; progress reports on the reconstruction of the Douglass theatre planned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in America; following the publication of The Theatric Tourist, the continuation of the Theatric Tourist project conceived by James Winston, as the notebooks, sketches, and watercolours are located and perhaps one day re-assembled in one central location: this project should also aid in the continued identification of other surviving Georgian theatres. In due course, the publication of papers just given at Richmond would be warmly welcomed.
The Society should be congratulated on a year of rich endeavour and its continued encouragement of theatre research. The STR in tandem with the convenors is to be warmly congratulated on this successful anniversary year. It would be pleasant to anticipate that a similar conference might be planned for the not too distant future to build on the success of THE GEORGIAN PLAYHOUSE and its Continental Counterparts 1750 -1850.
2008 John Rich Conference report
Jubilee Garden Party report
Koninkliche Schouwburg trip report
Richmond Conference report
General Events Index
General Events Archive Index
The Theatric Tourist, a facsimilie
7th November 2008