equestrian drama

Definition

Theater

  • A type of drama, popular in 19th-century London, in which horseswere a key element of the production. The most famous stage horseof the late Victorian era was the mare Lily, who appeared as RichardIII's horse White Surrey. John Martin-Harvey, who rode her in thisrole, said "I suppose few leading ladies had played a widerrange of parts than Lily." The only actor she allegedly refusedto carry, for no known reason, was Beerbohm Tree.

    The main London theater for equestrian dramas was Astley'sAmphitheatre; its chief equestrian was Andrew Ducrow, who becamejoint owner in 1825. Other venues were Covent Garden and Drury Lane,with such actors as Henry Irving, who was no horseman, taking equestrianroles.

    The most famous equestrian production was Mazeppa,based on a poem by Lord Byron and first performed in 1823 at the CoburgTheatre, London. Adah Menken played the title role "ina state of virtual nudity" in 1863 in California and the followingyear at Astley's.

    Horses continued to occupy the early 20th-century stage: achariot race in a 1902 production of Ben Hur employed fourtreadmills and a rapidly revolving background. In 1904, at the newlyopened London Coliseum, six horses collided on a revolving platformand an actor was killed.

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