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A CHAT WITH MR WARNER., Issue 8042, 19 October 1889
A CHAT WITH MR WARNER.
HtS COLONIAL TO&R. Yesterday evening a member of our staff had an interview with Mr Charles Warner and gathered some interesting particulars regarding his professional career and future intentions. In the course of chatty conversation Mr Warner mentioned that he was born in Kensington, London, in 1846 ; that when seventeen years of age he ran away from home, and first trod the boards as a strolling player in a provincial engagement. His first appearance in London was made aB Benvolio in 'Romeo and Juliet,' and he then Bigned a three years' engagement to play in Shakespearian revivals under the late Samuel Phelps at Drury Lane Theatre. He next migrated to the Olympic, where his first real success was scored in Byron's • Daisy Farm '; and_ after playing lengthened engagements, principally in comedy, at the Lyceum, Vaudeville, und I Haymarket, he went to the Princess's. Here it was that Mr Warner made his reputation, achieving a Bignal victory as Tom Robinson in 'Never Too Late to Mend,' and following this up with even greater success in ' Drink,' Charles Reade'a adaptation of ' L'Assommoir.' This play had already been produced in Paris, with Gil Naza in the original part of Coupeau ; and Mr Gooch, lessee of the Princess's, had not much faith in its success, for he had intended playing it for twelve nights only and then disbanding the company. That ' Drink' was an undoubted hit most of our readers are aware, and we leave Mr Warner at this point to tell his own tale. " A few days before the drama was produced," he says, " Mr Reade, its playwright, Baid that he wished me to act the part for him as at rehearsal. I replied that from my conception this was impossible, but if a dress rehearsal were called I would make up the character and act it exactly as I intended playing it during the run of the piece; but I begged to be excused from rehearsing my own part merely. Accordingly a dress rehearsal was called with thorough appointments, and Mr Reade sat in front with a number of friends, The performance was gone through, and on the conclusion of the mad scene—on my death, in point of fact—Mr Reade leapt oh to the stage, and, addressing his friends in front, remarked : ' Gentlemen, you have seen the greatest piece of acting of this century. Since the days of Edmund Kean nothing has been seen like it,' and exultingly left the theatre." As Mr Warner bad hitherto mainly confined his attention to comedy parts, such as Charles Surface, Charles Courtley, and Harry Daunton, and in undertaking that of Coupeau was making an entirely new departure, this was high praiße indeed. The first public performance of 'Drink' was given in London on Whit Monday, ten years ago; and Mr Warner, speaking of the first night, says:—-"I suppose there was never such a first night seen in London. The people began to flock to the doors at three o'clock in the afternoon, und it is an absolute fact that thousands and thousands were turned away. On the completion of the mad scene I fainted away at least half a dozen times, and Dr Kellew had to come round to my aßsißtance." But this performance established a reputation for Mr Warner. As we bare already stated, Mr Gooch had not much faith in ' Drink,' and only billed it for a fortnight. On the morning following its first representation he eent for Mr Warner, renewed his engagement for three years, and the play ran without cessation for fifteen months. Revivals were also given during a London and provincial season at the Adelphi, the Surrey, and the Standard in Shoreditch, where the takings for seven weeks at cheap prices averaged L 1,200 per week.
Mr Warner's three-years' ODgagemont at the Princess's was broken because he considered himself slighted by Mr Booth, the American, being engaged to open Mr Gooch's theatre ; and we next find him playing with Mr Bateman at Sadlers Wells in a round of legitimate parts. During this engagement ' Othollo' ran for seven weeks. Mr Warner then undertook the management of the Adelphi for a term, taking the entire weight and responsibility of every production; subsequently reappearing at the Vaudeville.
It was at this time that ho met Messrs Arthur Garner and Musgrove, who urged him to accept an Australian engagement; and after oonsidorable hesitation he agreed to come to the colonies for sixteen weeks only. "But the best laid plans, etc." Mr Warner has already been twenty months in Australasia, and his engagements—for he has to play return Beasons everywhere—will occupy an equally long period. He opened in Melbourne in February, 1888, with * Drink,' which was a tremendous success, the season running thirty-two consecutive weeks; occupied the boards in Sydney for twenty weeks; at Adelaide for twelve weeks; and at Brisbane for* six. His present New Zealand tour terminates at Auckland on January 22, but he feels that his reputation has grown nightly in Dunedin since his first appearance, and he has therefore determined to revisit us next year with 'The Noble Vagabond,' Reade and Pettit's ' Love and Money,' • True Hearts' (for which he has cabled Home, and other novelties. Mr Warner candidly admits that his success throughout Australia has been really marvellous. A few figures from the treasury books may not prove uninteresting. ' Hamlet' has always been a tremendous success. In Melbourne and Sydney big houses wore the rule; while in Adelaide the sum of L 678 was taken in three nights, and at Brisbane on the first twelve nights L 1,189 was cleared, leaving the takings for the other four weeks absolute profit. From Brisbane distressing accounts from a managerial point of view had been received, yet the first night realised L 239. Mr Warner is "running" his New Zealand tour as a " lone hand," the triumvirate's experiences of the • Jim the Penman' company having doubtless deterred them from sending a dramatic venture this way. On the remark being made to him that he could not have regretted his determination to vißit Australia, Mr Warner replied with much humor: "Oh, my dear boy, I have made more in the colonies than during my whole life. I certainly held one of the best positions in London, but have made more money during the brief period that I have been in Australasia than all the previous years. Of course, one has to work hard and to travel with a tremendous repertoire. My Melbourne and Sydney company had fifteen pieces, and, if necessary, we could have changed every night." But if his work has been hard the change from bustling London has had a relaxing effect on his health, and he is delighted with the Australian scenery—fairly glowing in his admiration of the charming spots to be met with in and around Dunedin. Of his extensive repertoire there is no piece that Mr Warner likes to take part in to the same extent as he does 'Captain Swift,' which is a drawing room play. Wherever this drama was produced in England it was a pronounced success; but in Australia it has only been partially so. Mr Warner accounts for this from the fact that it is the work of a colonial playwright, and on the principle that no man is a prophet in his own country. Had it been the work of an English author he says it would have drawn tremendously in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide.
At the request of a number of Shakespearian scholars, Mr Warner has determined to produce ' Hamlet' for his benefit. He says, with considerable frankness, that his conception of tho part of the Danish Prince may be regarded bb peculiar by many Shakespearian students. He takes a totally different view of the character to most actors. He regards Hamlet as a man who thought aloud, and who was a philosopher, and who was naturally quite subdued in his manner. He does not think that Hamlet could have spoken rudely, owing to his innate, kindly disposition; and says that the passages to Polonius, where ho is seemingly rude, should be rendered as asides, and are not to be intentionally addressed in discourteous terms to the father of the woman, whom Hamlet loves. The scenes with Ophelia should also be tempered with kindness, till the occasion is reached wherein Hamlet thinks that she is lying to him. Mr Warner says that, having read all the French and English commentators, his own idea is that Hamlet was naturally of a kind and lovable disposition, till he got beside himself with madness. To this con-
ception of tho character &S' fa prepared to find exception taken by members of the Shakespeare Cliib and other disciples of ths BaVd of Avon.
After half-an-hour's pleasant conversation' the interview terminated'.
A CHAT WITH MR WARNER., Issue 8042, 19 October 1889
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