Actors, Musicians and Theatre Personalities with Scottish Links ~ Frank Seymour fl.1800 - 1840

1.   Dunlop

2.   Keeley

Frank Seymour  fl. 1800 - 1840

1.   Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street Glasgow also known as the caledonian Theatre.  Seymour was manager of this theatre in 1825.  Original image in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.  [This version of the image is in the public domain.]  

2.    Robert Keeley 1793 - 1869, 1864.  albumen carte-de-visite, 89 mm x 56 mm by William Walker & Sons.  Original in the national Portrait Gallery, London.  [This version of the image in the public domain.]   Keeley was the original Jerry in Moncrieff's.  His career was primarily in the London Theatres, where he gained a reputation for female impersonation, playing Mrs Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewit, for which role he was coached by Dickens himself


The year 1825 brought the eccentric J. H. Alexander before the Glasgow public. Having had a somewhat varied career as tragedian, low comedian, character actor, and heavy gent, he went into management at Carlisle, and in 1822 he took the minor theatre hitherto managed by Kinloch. In 1825, hearing the Caledonian Theatre was in the market, he resolved to secure it. Seymour, the stage manager at Queen Street, managed to forestall him, and obtained possession. When Alexander arrived, he discovered he was too late, but it was not long before he had completed his plan of campaign. The building was not wholly occupied. Underneath was a cellar tenanted by a cotton dealer and potato merchant. Settling terms with this man of business, Alexander took up his abode therein. Seymour opened the Caledonian upstairs with Macbeth. Meantime Alexander christened his cellar 'The Dominion of Fancy,' and opened up the same night with The Battle of Inch.

In the words of Mr. Baynham:

'Macbeth was acted nearly throughout to the tuneful accompaniment of the shouts of the soldiery, the clanging of dish covers, the clashing of swords, the banging of drums, with the fumes of blue fire every now and then rising thro' the chinks of the planks from the stage below to the stage above. The audience laughed, and this stimulated the wrath of the combative managers. Any new sensation will draw an audience, and the fact of getting extraordinary effects unrehearsed, and certainly never seen before, drew large audiences.

The rivals besought magisterial aid to save themselves from each other, with the result that Seymour was allowed to open four nights a week, and Alexander two nights, Saturday and Monday, the best of the whole week. An appeal to the Court of Session only brought a confirmation of the Magistrates' decision. Then the struggle for supremacy took place. When 'The Dominion of Fancy' opened, its performance was subordinated to the noise of a brass band playing upstairs in Seymour's house. Following upon this came another appeal, and the instructions that 'Neither party was to annoy the other, and, on any more complaints being brought, both places would be ordered to be closed.'

Seymour's people next lifted the planking and poured water on the audience below. The climax was reached at the production of Der Freischutz, which was staged by both houses. Seymour's party mustered in strong force and took full advantage of the gaps in the planks to spoil the performance below. In the incantation scene, the dragon could not spit out his fiery fumes, and he was held by the tail till his fire had burned out. The skeleton-hunters were disturbed in their wild career: the curtain could not fall, and the cast had to be told to come off the stage. The magic circle was broken; Zaniel and his skeleton horseman had to walk off with the rest. To complete the devastation, the curtain came down with a crash, and the accompanying volumes of dust nearly suffocated the spectators. So ended this tale of rivalry. But it was not a failure, by any means. The public deserted the Queen Street Theatre and came to see the fun. Moncrieff's Tom and Jerry, or Life in London ran for a month, being played at both houses simultaneously during one of the weeks. And after such events who shall say that the Scots lack any sense of humour!'

[Text based on The Story of the Scots Stage, by Robb Lawson (1919).]

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3.   Theatre Royal

Frank Seymour  fl. 1800 - 1840

3.  
The Theatre Royal on Queen Street, ca 1805
.   The building was entirely destroyed by fire in 1829.  Original image in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.  [This version of the image is in the public domain.]

Seymour at Queen Street, 1826

The late proprietor of the Theatre Royal, Queen Street, having disappeared with the keys of that house, leaving behind a bill for six months' rent, the entry of Mr. Frank Seymour could not by any manner of euphemism be called an impressive one. This gentleman was compelled to go through the green-room window to open the door of the theatre.

Opening with Liston in Kennedy's comedy, Sweethearts and Wives and the farce, X. Y. Z., the engagement proved so successful that he determined to renovate the place. During the progress of these repairs, the company played at the old, quarters in Dunlop Street. When the re-decoration was completed, he opened with a strong bill consisting of that hardy perennial, Rob Roy.

One of his most successful shows was the production of Aladdin, on 10th May, 1826, for which the attractions were eighteen new scenes, a military band, fifty supernumaries, magic properties, and a flying palace built on a platform thirty feet long by eight feet broad, one of the biggest hits of the Glasgow stage. Another notable engagement was that of Andrew Ducrow, who brought a double company of a hundred ladies and gentlemen, a stud of forty horses, pack of hounds, and a stage for the equestrian spectacle, A Stag Hunt.

The house was burned down on 10th January, 1829. The proprietor's losses were largely covered by insurance, but a sum of £2,000 was lost through destruction of music, books, papers, etc. A ball was given at the Assembly Rooms, Ingram Street, at which £1,000 was realised for the benefit of Seymour.

On 2nd October, 1829, Seymour opened a new house in York Street, for which he claimed the patent of the Theatre Royal. His opening star was Edmund Kean, in the part of Shylock; Braham, Rae, Macready, and a host of others following in succession. The experiment was a failure, however, the York Street house remaining open only during a period of eighteen months.

[Text based on The Story of the Scots Stage, by Robb Lawson (1919).]

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Seymour Anecdote

Top Seymour and Aldridge in Ireland

 

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