the Theatrical Phenomenon



  • Billing for the 8-year-old child actress Miss Mudie, whoseperformance in 1805 at Covent Garden in the adult role of Miss Peggyin The Country Girl has been called "the most imperfectperformance ever witnessed on a London stage". The precociousMiss Mudie, who had received rave reviews in the provinces, enrageda tough London audience when she attempted to play the ludicrouslyinappropriate role of wife and mistress with the otherwise adult cast.She was tiny for her age and theatregoers found the love scenes sheplayed with the actor John Brunton either absurd or distasteful.

    Hissing and cries of "Off! Off!" resulted in MissMudie stopping the play, coming forward to confront the audience,and complaining: "Ladies and gentlemen, I have done nothingto offend you, and as for those who are sent here to hiss me, I willbe much obliged to you to turn them out." When a further pleafrom the manager Charles Kemble (see Kemble family)fell on deaf ears, an adult actress, Miss Searle, was substituted;nevertheless the uproar continued and the evening ended in chaos.

    Kemble was not above enjoying the furore generated by thesmall girl. When asked if she was really a child, and not, as somealleged, a midget he replied:

    Child! Why, Sir, when I was a very young actor in the Yorkcompany, that little creature kept an inn at Tadcaster and had a largefamily of children.