Presented for your entertainment…

While looking through our playbill collection we were fascinated by the range of different acts which have been presented to audiences in Leeds over the years.  Here are just a few.

The Theatre, which was on Hunslet Lane, opened in 1771 with room for 600 people. Most of the plays performed were comedies, or comic operas, with usually two items each night, with an interlude of singing or dancing. One of the more unusual entertainments was a troupe of performing cats in 1824.

Mr Usher and his Stud of Real Cats
Mr Usher and his Stud of Real Cats

The Princess Theatre which opened in 1849 also had its fair share on unusual acts. Madame Labariere with her troupe of lions, tigers and bears was one attraction, as well as many clown acts. On one occasion part of the performance took place outside the theatre itself as in the benefit for the clowns John Garrett and Harry Thatcher, when Mr Garrett travelled from Victoria Bridge to Leeds Bridge in a washing tub pulled by four geese!

John Garratt sailing the River Aire
John Garratt sailing the River Aire

Next to the Princess theatre which was in King Charles Croft, the Leeds Casino and Concert Hall was opened by Joseph Hobson. In about 1856 Hobson extended the Casino into Lands Lane and re-named it The Royal Alhambra. A playbill from 1859 gives an example of the kind of entertainment put on there; it features, among other things, ‘Mr. Edwin and his performing Dogs’.

Mr Edwin and his performing dogs
Mr Edwin and his performing dogs

The Music Hall on Albion Street, mentioned in the previous post, was also a venue for more unusual variety acts such as Professor Anderson’s ‘Novelties of Magic Art’. The poster has an image of the Professor at work, he is described as ‘the great wizard of the north and claims to have performed before royalty.

Novelties of Magic Art
Novelties of Magic Art

For more playbills from our collection see Leeds Playbills

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