Richardson's Show

Definition

Theater

  • A touring English variety show of the early 19th century, whosefairground performances were a forerunner of music hall.John Richardson (1766 - 1836), a mild-mannered publican and itinerantactor who had once been a workhouse boy, erected his first theaterbooth at London's Bartholomew Fair in 1798 using sceneryborrowed from Drury Lane. During its heyday, Richardson's Show couldseat some 1000 spectators in its 100 ft × 30 ft booth, whichalso accommodated 1500 lamps and an elevated stage with crimson curtains.Within a span of 25 minutes, the audience was treated to a fast-pacedoverture, comic songs, a melodrama, and a pantomime (with three murdersand a ghost, noted Dickens). Many distinguished actors, includingEdmund Kean began with Richardson, who is credited with spreadingpopular drama to the provinces. In 1826 he tried to auction off theshow but inadequate bids made him persevere for another decade untilhis death. Nelson Lee then acquired the property, disposing of itin 1853.
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