< Theatre Notebook
Vol. 66, No. 3
The Showman's Daughter: Mary Effie Collette, Actress
The “Personal Card” pages of the Era theatrical newspaper of the late nineteenth century are testimony to the veritable armies of young aspiring actresses seeking fame through employment on the stage. However, with the exception of a tiny minority of the more eminent and successful, the careers of the vast majority await resurrection. It was into this increasingly competitive milieu that Mary Collette (1871-1961) was to enter in the late 1880s, and had she not the benefit of well-known theatrical parents then she too might have remained anonymous. Her mother was the actress Blanche Julia Wilton (1856-1934), well-known for her soubrette roles, and one of a number of acting sisters eclipsed by the eldest, Marie Wilton (1839-1921), the later Lady Bancroft (Ince “Charles Henry Collette”). Mary’s father was Charles Collette (1842-1924), a famous comedian who enjoyed a long and distinguished career (Ince “Natural Born Showman”).
William Allen Brunning, S.B.A. (181850): a forgotten artist scene-painter
Pieter van der Merwe
A recent web posting from the McLean Museum at Greenock drew attention to a dramatic, large painting in its collection called “The construction of the Antaus”, which shows an early nineteenth-century riverine shipyard scene, with a vessel of that name dominating a central dry-dock.1 Presented in 1961 from Sir Gabriel Wood’s Mariners’ Home (formerly Asylum) at Greenock, it was given to the Asylum in June 1851 by John Fairrie, a Greenock merchant then resident in London. It hung there from 1854, when the building was completed, but apparently came with no other information than that the artist was a “Mr Brunning”, to which nothing has been added since. This surname is familiar from playbills as that of an 1840s stage scene-painter. A William Allen Brunning also showed landscape and marine paintings in the London exhibitions up to 1850, examples of his work occasionally passing through the salerooms as “nineteenth century”, a fact so obvious as to admit the absence of more.2 The emergence of the striking Greenock picture prompted investigation, which at least shows that the scenic and easel painter are the same man and that there is no other of the name.
"Hassan: Iraq on the British stage"
In the SAS (Special Air Service) headquarters in Hereford, England there is a regimental clock. On it is inscribed a verse from James Elroy Flecker’s 1913 poem The Golden Road to Samarkand:
We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go / Always a little further: it may be / Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow / Across that angry or that glimmering sea. / (Flecker, Samarkand 7)
Inherent in this epitaph is a spirit of travel and adventure, of conquering the natural world. But there is also potential danger an unknown and unreachable goal. In recent years the SAS troops who completed their training in the shadow of this clock have been deployed in Iraq, a complex arena of war with its suicide bombers, rising civilian casualty count and tensions within the allied forces, both in the respective governments and in ground-level operations.
The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons
Gill Perry, with Joseph Roach and Shearer West
The York Mystery Plays: Performance in the City
Margaret Rogerson (ed.)
The Making of the West End Stage: Marriage, Management and the Mapping of Gender in London, 1830-1870
The Showman’s Daughter: Mary Effie Collette, Actress –§– William Allen Brunning, S.B.A. (181850): A Forgotten Artist Scene-Painter –§– “Hassan: Iraq On The British Stage”.