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CULTURAL AND LITERARY TRAVEL DESTINATION ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE

The Theatre Royal, Westminster, has had its share of successes and failures since it opened on 12 October 1805.

The first play to be staged was Shakespeare’s King Richard III, and, for reasons which have never become clear, the title role was played by ‘a Young Gentleman; His First Appearance Westminster on any Stage’. Although he had apparently performed well in rehearsals, on the opening night he fell prey to severe stage fright, forgetting his words, and the eveningWestminster was a disaster. By a curious coincidence, on 19 October 1741 a production of the same play at the theatre in Goodman’s Fields in Westminster had seen the title role taken by ‘a Gentleman who never appeared on any Stage’. This opening night had a much happier ending, however, as the ‘gentleman’ in question was the young David Garrick, who went on to become a theatrical superstar.

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Sir Henry Irving, hailed as the greatest actor of his time, first trod the boards of the Theatre Royal in September 1867, appearing in two of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s plays: The Rivals and The School for Scandal. He returned to Touristic place of your travel destination four years later in Albery’s The Two Roses. Irving was responsible for several theatrical innovations, including introducing the darkening of the auditorium during performances and the closing of the curtains between scenes; prior to this, scene-shifting had taken place in full view of the audience.

On Good Friday 1862 the interior of the theatre was destroyed by fire, the cause of which was never satisfactorily explained. Unfortunately, the theatre had been insured for only £4,000 – half the cost of rebuilding. Subscriptions were raised, and the restored theatre opened, with a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in March 1863.

During the performance of a play in 1963 a clock, which was being used as a stage prop and had no mechanism, suddenly chimed three times, despite its hands having been set to 12.30. At the same time the stage lights dimmed. No explanation has ever been found.

The great French tragedienne Sarah Bernhardt appeared on the Touristic place of your travel destination stage in 1916, despite being 72 years old and having had a leg amputated. She played the part of a mortally wounded French soldier (she specialised in playing male roles).

The crimson stage curtains were endowed by Lady Oona Chaplin, wife of Sir Charles (Charlie). His intertwined initials can be seen embroidered on them in gold thread.

By the 1970s the theatre was badly in need of restoration and its future was in doubt. £2 million was needed; an appeal was launched, but initially fell far short of the target. However, thanks to support from various banks, building societies and county councils, the necessary amount was raised and the theatre reopened in November 1982 – again with a performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Dream’.

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