Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold

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ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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THEATRE REVIEWS

32. Sweet Nancy (1890)

 

Sweet Nancy
by Robert Buchanan (adapted from the novel, Nancy by Rhoda Broughton).
London: Lyric Theatre. 12 July to 1 August, 1890.
London: Royalty Theatre. 6 October to 17 November, 1890.
Other performances:
London: Criterion Theatre. 10 December, 1896 (matinée).
London: Court Theatre. 8 February to 8 May, 1897.
London: Avenue Theatre. 6 January to 16 February, 1898.
Manchester: Theatre Royal. 26 September, 1899.

Published: ‘Sweet Nancy : a comedy in three acts / by Robert Buchanan ; founded on Rhoda Broughton’s novel “Nancy.”’ (New York: S. French, 1914. 76 p. : plans ; 19 cm. - Series: French’s Acting Edition. No. 2455)

(Harriett Jay played the role of Barbara Grey.)

sweetnancy

[Miss Annie Hughes as ‘Sweet Nancy’.]

 

The Stage (11 July, 1890 - p.9)

     Last week I told you that Robert Buchanan’s new three-act comedy, Nancy, was being rehearsed for production at the Lyric. The piece, which is founded upon Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel, has been re-christened Sweet Nancy, and will be presented on Saturday evening. In the cast will be found Mr. H. Neville, Miss Frances Ivor, Miss Harriett Jay, and Miss Annie Hughes, who, you see, has not retired from the stage into private life, as she first thought of doing when she was married. Sweet Nancy will be preceded by a new comedietta, entitled, An Old Maid’s Wooing.

nancybill

[Lyric Theatre handbill announcing the end of The Bride of Love
and the opening of Sweet Nancy on Saturday, July 12th, 1890.]

 

Reynolds’s Newspaper (13 July, 1890)

LAST NIGHT’S THEATRICALS.
LYRIC THEATRE.

     Mr. Robert Buchanan having withdrawn the charming play, “The Bride of Love,” replaced it last night by a new comedy, entitled “Sweet Nancy,” founded on Miss Rhoda Broughton’s famous and charming story, “Nancy.” The story, familiar to many, tells of a young girl’s sacrifice, in order to benefit her brothers and sisters—brow-beaten and bullied by their father—who enters into a May and December marriage with an elderly general, Sir Roger Tempest, and who at first, doubtful of her love for him, ends with being violently jealous of his attentions to a Mrs. Huntley, a grass widow, who had previously set her cap at him, and now ridicules Sir Roger for having a girl-wife, and marrying not only one member, but the whole family. The play is much too long, and at times verbose, but the length of the piece was everywhere condoned by the admirable acting of the excellent company engaged. There is an abundance of juvenile characters, but playgoers, having been surfeited with Fauntleroys, princes and paupers, and the like, would certainly exclaim, “Not too much juvenile, but juvenile enough.” It is here we think the play could be curtailed, inasmuch as the characters serve little or no purpose in forwarding the action of the play, though they help towards making a series of pretty stage pictures. Miss Annie Hughes, as Nancy, the tomboy girl-wife, endowed the part with a pathos, a spirit, and a charm that was quite enchanting; in fact, had the part been written purposely for her, it could not have suited her better. Mr. Henry Neville, sound actor as he is, was perfect in every way as Sir Roger Tempest; and Mr. Ernest Hendrie, as the tyrannical and somewhat parsimonious father, gave an excellent character sketch. Miss Harriet Jay, as Nancy’s sister Barbara was excellent, and Miss Ethel Hope as the mother of the tribe of paternally-awed juveniles, lent excellent service. Other characters were carefully portrayed by Mr. H. Esmond, Mr. Bucklaw, and Mr. C. M. Hallard. Miss Frances Ivor as Mrs. Huntley, not quite perfect in her part, looked charmingly, and acted excellently. The comedy was preceded by a delightful and well-written comedietta by Messrs. Arnold Golsworthy and E. B. Norman, called “An Old Maid’s Wooing,” in which the Squire and the Rector of Churton are each in love with the same woman. The former enlists the service of the parson to make known his affection, but the lady preferring the latter, the Squire, though defeated, acts honourably. Mr. E. B. Norman undertook the part of the Rev. James Braithwaite; Mr. E. Hendrie was excellent as the uneducated Squire, who made his money in hams; and Miss Ethel Hope played quietly and admirably as the Old Maid, Miss Hester Grayson. It was close on the witching hour of midnight when the entertainment terminated, when calls were given for the principal characters, to which they responded, as did also Mr. Robert Buchanan.

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The Daily News (14 July, 1890)

THE THEATRES.
_____

“SWEET NANCY” AT THE LYRIC
THEATRE.

     Miss Rhoda Broughton’s “Nancy” has been some years before the world, but no dramatist appears to have seen in it promising material till it occurred to Mr. Buchanan the other day to take it in hand. Mr. Buchanan is, however, the most skilful of those playwrights who practice the art of transferring works of narrative fiction to the stage, and his tact and ingenuity have not forsaken him on this occasion. “Sweet Nancy,” which on Saturday evening took the place of “The Bride of Love” at the Lyric Theatre, is not without faults; but happily its faults are of a kind very easily remedied. It is not merely that the three acts are too long, though the play, beginning at the late hour of nine in the evening, detained the audience till not very far from the stroke of midnight. It is rather that the subject is too slight to bear the elaboration which Mr. Buchanan and his interpreters bestow upon it. Of pathetic or serious interest there is really none. It is a mere storm in a matrimonial teacup, which is not even brewing in anything like earnest till the play is well nigh at an end. The charm of the piece—and it is a rare charm indeed upon the modern stage—is the uncompromising truthfulness of its portraiture, and the unconstrained freshness of its dialogue. The spectators who had the misfortune on Saturday to arrive early enough to witness the performance of the little one-act play by Messrs. Goldsworthy and Norman, with its milksop parson, its painfully exemplary heroine, its imbecile squire, and its much-too-highly-coloured village poacher, could not fail to feel a welcome relief in the presence of Mr. Buchanan’s Nancy, who has at least the merit of speaking and acting like a human being, and who, with all her failings, is, in the congenial person of Miss Annie Hughes, a really delightful personage.
     When Nancy confesses to her middle-aged suitor, Sir Roger Tempest, that she has no particular fancy for him, though she is glad that there will be some “good shooting for the boys,” it is instinctively felt that this mood is quite as likely to ripen into a genuine regard as if she had received his offer with more conventional phrases. When, in the later scenes, she repulses the insolent advances of her sister Barbara’s reputed admirer, and saucily tells him that he is not the sort of man to make her unmindful of her marriage vows, it is perceived in like manner that, with all her sharpness of tongue and lack of skill or desire to hide her girlish impulses, she is not a whit the less likely to make a loving and a faithful wife. Nancy is in brief the central figure and unfailing source of the interest of the story; and what defects the play presents are all due to momentary forgetfulness of this fact. The husband’s suddenly aroused fit of jealousy is really only of value for its effect in drawing out the more subtle and delicate traits in the character of the wife. Hence the efforts of Mr. Henry Neville to convert the situation into a mild variation upon the tragic relations of Othello and Desdemona were in excess of the occasion, and indeed his too fervid and emotional style was more in keeping with romantic drama than with the lighter key in which the story is pitched. The other performers of the cast were, with scarce an exception, excellent in their way. On the stage Barbara, unlike the poet’s “thing of beauty,” exhibits a decided tendency to “pass into nothingness;” but as it stands the part is filled with perfect taste and thoroughly womanly grace and tenderness by Miss Harriet Jay, while Mr. Hendrie with many sharp and clever touches brings into relief the humour of Mr. Grey’s selfish domestic despotism. An artistic sketch of the maliciously fascinating Mrs. Huntley, contributed by Miss Ivor, also deserves mention; while the spirit and cleverness of Mr. Esmond, Mr. Hallard, Mr. Highland, and Miss B. Ferrar, in their respective parts of Algernon, “Bobby,” “The Brat,” and Tow Tow, are not the less worthy of acknowledgment because the mischievous pranks and unruly utterances of this quartet are too often permitted to interrupt the more direct purpose of the play. “Sweet Nancy” will presumably undergo some compression. In that case it ought to prove one of the most popular, as it is certainly one of the freshest and most diverting, productions of the modern stage.

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The Scotsman (14 July, 1890 - p.8)

     LONDON, Saturday night — Mr Robert Buchanan has taken advantage of his brief tenancy of the Lyric Theatre to produce there a new comedy from his own pen, founded on Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel called “Nancy,” withdrawing “The Bride of Love.” On Friday night he followed on with “Sweet Nancy” (as he calls his latest venture.) This evening there was a large audience, including Mr A. M. Palmer, the American manager; Miss Genevieve Ward, Miss Wallis, Miss Kate Santley, Mr Edward Terry, and other well-known people, and it proved very liberal in its applause, especially at the conclusion of the first and the second acts. The third act was found inordinately long, the performance not ending until close upon midnight; nevertheless very few hisses mingled with the cheers that followed the fall of the curtain, and so far the reception given to the comedy was favourable. The third act, however, will need to be relieved of much of its verbosity and repetition, and even then the play will not rank high in the list of Mr Buchanan’s productions. The subject is thin, and it is treated for the most part conventionally. The first act, which exhibits Nancy as the “tomboy” of a large family of children, and illustrates the processes by which she yields to the addresses of her middle-aged lover Sir Roger Tempest, is fresh and bright, but as soon as the illicit lover Frank Musgrave and the scheming “grass widow” Mrs Huntley come upon the scene, the interest begins to lag. Nancy gets jealous of Mrs Huntley. Her soldier husband is called to the wars, the lover whom Nancy has all along regarded as the suitor of her sister Barbara pays violent court to the former, the husband returns to find Nancy’s name linked slanderously with Musgrave’s, and after explanations too many and too long, Musgrave’s treachery is exposed, Nancy’s innocence vindicated, and Sir Roger reassured. All this is very jejune, besides being clumsily worked out, and it would not have been tolerated to-night but for the admirable acting of Miss Annie Hughes as Nancy. This clever young artist, delightfully naive in the opening scenes, showed herself capable later on not only of pretty pathos, but of genuine passion, and altogether enhanced her reputation very considerably. The sound method of Mr Henry Neville was of great service in making Sir Roger an impressive figure; Mr Hendrie was humorous as Nancy’s father, of whom, however, there is too much; and Mr Henry Esmond was effectively natural as Nancy’s brother, who is ensnared by the wiles of Mrs Huntley. Apart from these, the cast is not especially strong, for Miss Harriet Jay as Barbara is amateurish. Mr Bucklaw as Musgrave seems ill at ease, and Miss Ivor, clever in many things, is not well suited as the “grass   widow.”

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The Times (14 July, 1890 - p.4)

LYRIC THEATRE.

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is not as careful of his reputation as he might be. The comedy of Sweet Nancy, which he brought out upon his own responsibility at the Lyric Theatre on Saturday night, is not in his best style. Adapted from a novel of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s of the year 1873, it bears every sign of being an early an d immature work, and exhibits none of that happy blending of the arts of the playwright and the novelist which has distinguished the author’s Sophia and Clarissa. The courtship and marriage of a sedate, elderly gentleman with a young romp of 19, who knows that he has “been to school with father,” is not an interesting subject for the stage, where there beats a fiercer light than on the pages of a novel; and when the serenity of the household is disturbed by jealousies for which there is no real foundation, and which a timely and natural word of explanation would dissipate, the spectator’s patience is apt to be a little tried. Sweet Nancy is a very small story— a mere episode, indeed—beaten out into three acts of extraordinary tenuity. Here and there it contains pleasing suggestions of truth and human nature, as in the case of the tyrannical father who is followed about by a brow-beaten wife and a troop of insufferable children of all ages from 12 upwards; but, as often happens in a piece which has been derived from a book, the odds and ends of character put forward are somewhat inconsequent; they look for the most part what they are, the mere débris of a novel rather than the living material of a play. Mr. Henry Neville acts the middle-aged lover, and Miss Annie Hughes the hoyden of 19 in a pinafore. The choleric paterfamilias finds a very plausible representative in Mr. Hendrie. In an incidental part appears Miss Harriett Jay. Oddly enough, a new first piece, entitled An Old Maid’s Wooing, also deals with the unsympathetic subject of an elderly courtship.

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The Yorkshire Post (14 July, 1890 - p.4)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan is varying his wide experience as a dramatic author by doing a little theatrical management on his own account. The Lyric Theatre has fallen temporarily into his hands, and on Saturday night a new piece, entitled, “Sweet Nancy”—the product of his prolific pen—was presented for the first time. It is an adaptation from Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel of the same name, and tells the story of a young girl who marries an old General out of respect for his good qualities, and subsequently becomes the innocent object of his suspicion through the designs of a young rascal whom she supposes to be in love with her sister, and admits to her house on terms of intimacy. As in most plays of the kind the plot depends for its success upon misunderstandings and misconceptions which a few words would explain, but which, somehow or other, never are explained until the last moment. This imparts an air of unreality to most of the scenes, and leaves the audience at the end a little exasperated with the characters who are so foolish as to wilfully place themselves in the wrong by avoiding common-sense methods of clearing themselves. There are, however, so many bright episodes in the play and such strength in the dialogue that one feels almost inclined to forgive the flimsiness of the superstructure upon which the piece is constructed. A little compression would certainly be of advantage, but if that is done there is no reason why “Sweet Nancy” should not have a good run.

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The Derby Daily Telegraph (14 July, 1890 - p.2)

OUR LONDON LETTER.
_____

                                                                                             LONDON, Monday Morning.

. . .

     ’Tis true ’tis pity, pity ’tis ’tis true that Mr. Robert Buchanan is a little too fertile. Of late he has out-distanced all rival dramatists in productiveness, and the latest sample of his stage-work “Sweet Nancy” is creditable pot-boiling, and that is all. It was performed at the Lyric Theatre on Saturday night to an expectant house, b ut when the curtain fell at midnight there was a chill of disappointment. Miss Broughton’s novel of “Nancy” is an extremely clever bit of characterisation, but in the adaptation some of the bloom was taken from the flower. It would seem as if Mr. H. A. Jones’s dictum that modern drama cannot be literary if realism is to be retained, bears truth in its kernel. Some bright bits that read so charmingly in the novel rather bore one on the stage. But the comedy allows Miss Annie Hughes to show herself in a part that must go a long way to attract crowded houses. She is the hoyden who marries the middle-aged military man, not because she loves him, but to keep things pleasant in the family. There is a strong scene when Mr. Henry Neville, as General Tempest, starts for South Africa on active service. Emotion is not Miss Hughes’s strong point. but the mixture of complaisance and regret, mischievous yet dolorous, with which she received her doting husband’s farewell, seems just the outcome of the pretty tomboy’s temperament. A young man hangs around pretending to be infatuated with her sister Barbara, but really in love with Sweet Nancy, who tries to help the couple to an understanding, but unfortunately places herself in an awkward position with the treacherous lover on the eve of her husband’s return. Were the piece a trifle less thin in plot, and much of the verbosity cut out, “Sweet Nancy” would be an ideal comedy, fresh and exhilarating as the charming actress who creates the title rôle.

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The Era (19 July, 1890)

THE LYRIC.
On Saturday, July 12th, for the First Time,
a New Comedy, in Three Acts, by Robert Buchanan,
Founded on Miss Rhoda Broghton’s Story “Nancy,” entitled
“SWEET NANCY.”

Sir Roger Tempest  ...   Mr HENRY NEVILLE
Frank Musgrave     ...     Mr BUCKLAW
Mr Grey                ...    Mr ERNEST HENDRIE
Mrs Grey               ...     Miss ETHEL HOPE
Barbara Grey         ...     Miss HARRIETT JAY
Algernon Grey        ...     Mr HENRY V. ESMOND
Nancy Grey           ...    Miss ANNIE HUGHES
Robert Grey          ...    Mr. C. M. HALLARD
James Grey           ...    Master WALTER HIGHLAND
Teresa Grey          ...    Miss B. FERRAR
Mrs Huntley          ...    Miss FRANCES IVOR
Pendleton              ...    Mr SMITHSON
Footman                ...    Mr A. R. BENNETT

     Those familiar with Miss Rhoda Broughton’s charming story “Nancy” must have expected a great treat from Mr Robert Buchanan’s adaptation of the same, announced for production at the Lyric Theatre on Saturday last. There is certainly little plot in the novel; but it has been proved, in the case of Little Lord Fauntleroy and other pieces, that a story can be almost dispensed with, provided idyllic charm is present. Enthusiastic applause followed the descent of the curtain on the first act on Saturday, and the audience prepared themselves for an evening of enjoyment. Unfortunately, the high expectations thus created were not realised. Mr Buchanan, experienced adaptor as he is, had missed his way in his treatment of Miss Broughton’s delightful book, and had overloaded hii idyll with commonplace dramatic effects. If the promise implied in the programme had been fulfilled—if Sweet Nancy had begun at nine and ended at eleven, it would have been difficult for the most clumsy versionist—and that character does not describe Mr Buchanan—to smother in weariness the enjoyment which the audience could not fail to take in the humour and sentiment of the story. But, altogether, the work of dramatic presentation was unadroitly and carelessly done. A piece which of all pieces required finished rehearsal was so imperfectly prepared for performance that blunders and hesitations on the part of the artists were frequent; and what with the dialogue being taken in too slow time, what with the unnecessary elaboration of certain situations, the audience, when a quarter to twelve was reached, were utterly out of patience. When the curtain fell a difference of opinion was freely expressed, and Mr Buchanan, coming before the curtain, in vain endeavoured to shift from his own shoulders some of the responsibility of the failure by referring to Miss Rhoda Broughton as the responsible authoress of the piece. It was not Miss Broughton’s book but Mr Buchanan’s adaptation that was hissed and hooted by a large number of those present.
     Most of us are pleasantly familiar with the slight narrative of “Nancy,” and remember how the heroine, growing up in the flower of simple English girlhood at an old country house, snubbed, like her brothers and sisters, by a pragmatical parent, and as free from affectation as from selfishness or sentimentality, is admired and wooed by a middle-aged officer, one Sir Roger Tempest. Her elder sister, Barbara, is being courted in a dubious, unsatisfactory manner by Frank Musgrave, who is really secretly smitten by the attractions of Nancy herself. The latter becomes Lady tempest, and soon learns to deeply love her elderly husband. But the serpent, in fact two serpents, soon present themselves in this connubial Eden. Mrs Huntley, an artful grass-widow with whom Sir Roger is connected by a friendship for her absent husband, his old comrade-in-arms, lives near the Tempests; and Nancy’s jealousy is roused by this fine lady’s tone of familiarity with Sir Roger, and by her patronising and satirical manner to the young Lady Tempest herself. Before Nancy and her husband can come to an explanation on the subject, he is called away to the seat of war in the Soudan, and she is left behind with Frank Musgrave, and with her sister Barbara, with whom Nancy believes that the young man is in love. After an interval of a twelvemonth, Sir Roger’s return is announced, and Musgrave, in  desperation, dashes into an avowal of his passion, which astonishes as much as it disgusts the unhappy Nancy, who bursts into tears, and is found with Musgrave in a compromising situation by Mrs Huntley and Nancy’s hobbldehoy brother, who is “mashed”—to use a vulgar but expressive term—on the fascinating grass-widow. The latter mentions the incident to Sir Roger, who demands an explanation from his wife. She is too much hurt and astonished by his suspicion to answer, and is further kept silent by her wish to conceal the fact that her sister has been to all intents and purposes jilted by the worthless Musgrave, who after Nancy’s repulse has gone up to London and announced his intention of thence proceeding to the Continent. There is a strong scene in which Mrs Huntley, brought face to face with Nancy, reiterates her insinuations, and finally the General’s suspicions are entirely removed by Musgrave, who, having been sent for by Barbara, makes a full confession of the truth, and clears Nancy from all blame.
     The audience on Saturday were undoubtedly bored by the piece as a whole; ut it may not be too late, if vigorous measures are immediately taken, to turn the quasi-failure of Sweet Nancy into a success. It is simply a question of elision and judicious condensation. The children—by making one of whom, Tow-Tow, a pretty little lass instead of the gaunt, spindle-shanked, youngster described in the book, the author and management lost a chance—should be less seen and heard; the emotional passages should be curtailed, especially the parting scene at the end of the second act. The lovesick Algernon should recede into the background, and all the interest should be kept concentrated upon Nancy and Sir Roger. In doing this the piece would naturally be cut down forty minutes; and certainly two hours is quite long enough for an idyll of this kind to play.
     We can hardly believe that a performance containing so exquisite an embodiment of ingenuous maidenhood as Miss Annie Hughes’s creation of Nancy is doomed to early oblivion. Miss Hughes has almost a monopoly of parts of this kind, and her impersonation of the charming child-wife was delightful in its delicacy of touch, its artless grace, its quaint and unstrained humour. For the sake of her Nancy alone, the piece ought to ripen into a success. Mr Henry Neville’s Sir Roger Tempest surprised even those who, knowing how long this excellent actor has been before the public, know also how wonderfully, by his potent art, he can defy the hand of Time. His Sir Roger was a performance admirable in every respect. In the earlier acts the General, elderly as he was, seemed a man any woman might be proud of being loved by; and it is hardly necessary to write that his imitation of angry emotion in the last act was forcible and convincing in a very high degree. Miss Harriett Jay, in the rather redundant rôle of Barbara, played with quiet cleverness; and Miss Frances Ivor, though now and then at a loss for a word, neatly suggested the insincerity and artfulness of Mrs Huntley. Mr Bucklaw as Frank Musgrave made the most of his opportunities, and managed to realise exactly the personage suggested by the novelist. Mr H. V. Esmond hit off the peculiarities of the amorous Algernon very neatly. It was an excellent bit of character acting, and deserved none the less credit because the youth became, from no fault of Mr Esmond’s, an irksome bore. The “boys,” as Nancy was so fond of calling them, were cleverly represented by Messrs C. M. Hallard and Walter Highland; and Miss B. Ferrar looked very pretty indeed as “Tow-Tow.” Mr Hendrie, though hardly aristocratic and vinegarish enough, made the stern parent, Mr Grey, sufficiently funny; and Miss Ethel Hope was just what was required as the submissive wife. The scenery was pretty, and Miss Hughes’s dresses were charmingly artistic. Sweet Nancy was preceded by a piece, in one act, by Arnold Golsworthy and A. B. Norman, entitled

“AN OLD MAID’S WOOING.”

Rev. James Braithwaite   ...     Mr E. B. NORMAN
Henry Higgins, Esq         ...     Mr E. HENDRIE
Roger Gammon             ...    Mr HENRY BAYNTUN
Miss Hester Grayson      ...     Miss ETHEL HOPE
Naomi Wild                   ...    Miss B. FERRAR

This sketch, previously played at the St. George’s Hall, proved too tame and conventional to interest the audience at the Lyric Theatre last Saturday. The idea of a vulgar suitor getting a friend to plead his cause with a lady, with the result of the said friend winning her love, is far from novel. That, however, would have mattered little had the authors utilised the notion in a fresh and dramatic manner, but the reverse was the case. An Old Maid’s Wooing is an instance of the managerial notion that anything will do to play thee stalls and dress-circle in with and to keep the pit and gallery quiet for half-an-hour. This system has brought levers de rideau into such disrepute that everyone endeavours, if possible, to escape from seeing a “first piece.” So long as managers look upon the curtain-raiser only as a necessary expense to be reduced to a minimum, so long will this state of things exist. Mr Hendrie may be commended for his neat impersonation of the sporting squire, and Miss Ethel Hope and Mr Norman were efficient as the old maid and her clerical wooer. There can be no doubt that the irritated feeling produced in the popular parts of the house by the feebleness of the first piece had a good deal to do with the severely critical verdict passed upon Sweet Nancy by the pit and gallery.

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The Graphic (19 July, 1890)

THEATRES.

     THE jaded playgoer who is always pining for something fresh and truthful—something which betokens observation of life as opposed to a mere re-dressing of the too-familiar puppets of the playwright’s conventional world—has just now an excellent opportunity of showing his sincerity. Freshness and disregard of stage tradition are the pre-eminent characteristics of the new play which Mr. Buchanan has fashioned out of a novel by Miss Rhoda Broughton, and produced at the LYRIC Theatre; but the obligations which the author of Sweet Nancy has conferred upon the playgoing public do not end here. He has not only furnished an original and interesting play, but contrived to get it acted by a company who are with scarcely an exception able to free themselves from that besetting failing of their profession—a tendency to fall into the vein which is popularly known as “stagey.” There are no intricacies of plot, no very startling situations, no “sensations” of any kind; but the story is nevertheless interesting, and the types of character are admirable both in themselves and in the skill with which they are contrasted in the working-out of a clearly-defined purpose. All that happens between the rising and the fall of the curtain upon the third and last act may be summed up in the facts that a middle-aged officer in the Army falls in love with a schoolgirl, marries her, grows needlessly jealous àpropos of her alleged flirtations during his absence abroad, discovers his mistake, and finally takes her to his arms again. Yet the spectators follow the history of the courtship and wedded life of General Tempest and Nancy Grey with a constantly increasing sympathy, and find in the dialogue and incidents of the play—in spite of some occasional redundancies which may easily be removed—unfailing entertainment. For this fortunate result the author is indebted in no small degree to Miss Annie Hughes’ delightful portrait of the impulsive, wayward, but thoroughly sound-hearted heroine, whose career put in so strong a light the truth of the maxim that if a free and open nature and a habit of giving unconstrained utterance to thoughts and feelings in plain English have their inconveniences, they may also have their countervailing advantages. Nancy is at all events a very natural as well as a very womanly personage. We not only grasp her character, but we also understand how it has been nurtured and developed in the unruly playground of Mr. Grey’s ill-regulated establishment. The very frankness and honesty of the overgrown schoolgirl appear to be fostered by the harsh domestic despotism and systematic self-seeking of her father—a character played, by the way, with a very artistic eye to essentials and a true sense of humour by Mr. Hendrie. It is the natural antagonism of an unsophisticated nature. The General is the man of her father’s choice, and Nancy does not pretend to have any sentimental regard for him; but what regard she does profess is at least honest, and the spectator is quite prepared to find her feeling towards her high- minded and chivalrous husband develop into genuine affection. If Mr. Henry Neville would but pitch the tone of the elderly officer’s passion in a little less heroic vein, the situation would gain a touch of truth. “Bobby,” “The Brat,” and “Tow-Tow,” together with their brother Algernon, aged twenty, who falls so romantically in love with the “grass   widow,” Mrs. Huntley—the evil genius of the story—are cleverly “differenced,” and presented with wonderful spirit by Mr. Hallard, Master Walter Highland, Miss B. Ferrar, and Mr. H. V. Esmond respectively; while Miss Harriet Jay gives a pleasing individuality to the portrait of Barbara, who in the play fills a less important part than in the novel. We are not quite sure whether the perfect harmlessness of its story will recommend the piece to the jaded playgoer; but we are certain, at least, that Sweet Nancy ought to prove to be one of the most popular of the recent productions of our stage.

hughes

Punch (26 July, 1890)

A SWEET HOME FOR NANCY.

DEAR MR. PUNCH,—The other evening, wishing to enjoy a little music, I went to the Lyric Theatre, and found that the opera chosen for performance was called Sweet Nancy, founded upon a novel with some similar title by Miss RHODA BROUGHTON. The prettiest tune I heard was one that I fancy had been played before, and my belief is the stronger as Mr. HENRY NEVILLE referred to it as “a dear old song.” It had to do with “Darby and Joan,” and reminded me of J. L. MOLLOY’S delightful song with that title. The rest of the music was not very striking. Even to those who hold that the plot of an Opera is only of secondary importance, Sweet Nancy could not have appeared to be exactly teeming with incidents. However, it was very nicely played by Miss HUGHES, and that now mature Lancashire Lad, the aforesaid HENRY NEVILLE. Without declaring that I should like to see it every evening for a thousand years (which I believe is a façon de parler even in China), I certainly could sit it out again. If I wished to be a fault-finder I should say that the piece is too long, and seems all the longer because some of the characters are supposed to represent schoolboys, and a girl of thirteen. The adapter is Mr. BUCHANAN—a poet and a playwright. This gentleman, I believe, has made many other pieces (more or less) his own, with (more or less) success. He seems to have a knack of turning old plays into new ones. I live in hope that when I next visit this great Metropolis I shall find that he has re-written the School for Scandal, and brought Hamlet up to date.

Yours always, A CRITIC FROM THE COUNTRY.

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The Theatre (1 August, 1890)

“SWEET NANCY.”

Comedy in three acts, founded by ROBERT BUCHANAN, by express arrangement with the novelist and
her publishers, on Miss RHODA BROUGHTON’S famous story “Nancy.”
First performed at the Lyric Theatre, Saturday, July 12, 1890.

Sir Roger Tempest            ...     Mr. Henry Neville.
Frank Musgrave               ...     Mr. Bucklaw.
Mr. Grey                         ...    Mr. Ernest Hendrie.
Mrs. Grey                        ...     Miss Ethel Hope.
Barbara Grey (aged 25)   ...     Miss Harriett Jay.
Algernon Grey (aged 20)  ...     Mr. Henry V. Esmond.
Nancy Grey (aged 19)     ...    Miss Annie Hughes

Robert Grey
(called Bobby, aged 17)      ...     Mr. C. M. Hallard.
James Grey
(called the Brat, aged 14)     ...     Master Walter Highland.
Teresa Grey
(called Tow-Tow, aged 12)  ...     Miss B. Ferrar.
Mrs. Huntley                       ...    Miss Frances Ivor.
Pendleton                            ... Mr. Smithson.
Footman                              ...     Mr. A. R. Bennett

     Not having read Miss Broughton’s novel, I cannot say how much Mr. Buchanan is indebted to her book, nor how far he has varied the incidents, but can only treat on his work as a comedy, and am sorry to have to say that he has just missed writing a very good one. His first act was delightful in its freshness; the second was interesting but wanted cutting down; the third became tiresome, for we all knew what was coming, but were kept going round and round the catastrophe and explanation without advancing on our way. At least a third of the last act could be spared; the play could then be made to wind up crisply. The events come about quite naturally, and the conduct of all the characters is explicable but that of our heroine, Nancy, who sits mumchance under a dreadful accusation, and allows herself to be thought guilty by a husband to whom she is really attached, merely from an overstrained sense of honour towards her sister. And the plague of it is that were she to explain at once, her sister would suffer in no one’s estimation, for it is only that she has perhaps too readily given her heart to a contemptible scoundrel. Nancy, as will be seen by the programme, is one of a large family, of all of whom she is very fond, except, perhaps, of her father, who is a tyrannous old humbug. He has made up his mind that one of his daughters shall marry his rich middle-aged friend, Sir Roger Tempest, a noble fellow, whose thoughts turn to Nancy. In a charming scene he proposes and is accepted, for the girl likes him and thinks of the benefits she will be able to confer on her brothers and sisters. Three months after, we find her married, very  happy, for she has everything she can desire and has become really attached to Sir Roger—the only cloud on their domestic bliss is her husband’s familiarity with Mrs. Huntley, “a grass widow.” They call each other by their Christian names, and are certainly on the best of terms; but this is explained by the fact that she is the wife of one of Sir Roger’s oldest friends and brother officers, who has entrusted her to his comrade whilst he is abroad. Sir Roger is ordered on foreign service, and has to leave to take up a command. Nancy feels the separation deeply, and is delighted when, after a year’s absence, a telegram arrives announcing Sir Roger’s immediate return. Frank Musgrave has been constantly about the house on the assumable pretext that he is attached to Barbara. This is, however, only a cloak to hide his designs on Nancy, for whom he feels a mad passion. When he learns of Sir Roger’s approaching coming, Musgrave declares his love for Nancy. She at first takes his words as conveying a proposal for Barbara, but when she understands them as addressed to herself, she bursts into a fit of hysterical weeping, for she knows how her sister loves him, and as he is leaning over her still pleading his cause, they are discovered by Mrs. Huntley and Algernon, who is over head and ears in love with the heartless coquette who has led him into even more than a flirtation. Sir Roger returns and almost immediately hears from Mrs. Huntley, who hates Nancy, the very worst account of her conduct during his absence. He will scarcely believe evil of the woman he loves, but naturally asks for an explanation. This Nancy will not give, but retaliates on Mrs. Huntley’s character for her open encouragement of Algernon, and insists on being brought face to face with her. Mrs. Huntley justifies her statements and there seems but little hope of a reconciliation, when Barbara, who becomes aware of the sufferings Nancy is undergoing for her sake, fetches Musgrave, who actually before Sir Roger and Barbara admits his base conduct and acquits Nancy of ever having looked on him otherwise than as her husband’s friend, and acknowledges how badly he has treated Barbara. And so the curtain falls on the reconciliation. Mr. Henry Neville represented completely the noble loving nature of a man who cannot but see the danger of having married a girl so much his junior, but who is determined to win her entire love by his devotion. Miss Annie Hughes surprised every one by the strength she displayed. She was known to possess great pathos, but to mingle with it the brightness of a thoroughly ingenuous girl, full of life and spirits, and later to exhibit the woman’s nature so truthfully, was a great triumph for a young actress, who really carries the play almost entirely on her shoulders. Miss Harriett Jay was a very sweet brave girl as Barbara; but I am inclined to think that the love of the sisters would have been sufficiently apparent without quite so much embracing and twining of arms about each other. Mr. Buckland did well in a very repulsive part; and Mr. Henry V. Esmond deserves the greatest praise for his acting of a youth, just at that age when he fancies he thoroughly understands the world and is made a victim to “calf love.” Mr. Ernest Hendrie was quaint and amusing. Miss Frances Ivor was a little too supercilious in her manner. Miss Blanche Ferrar was delightful as the tomboy, Tow-Tow. On the fall of the curtain, there were some expressions of disapproval of the piece, but all in the “cast” were enthusiastically called at the end of each act. “An Old Maid’s Wooing,” which preceded, is by Arnold Goldsworthy and E. B. Norman, and is a pretty idea, but one that has been used several times before. Hester Grayson (Miss Ethel Hope) is placidly drifting into becoming “an old maid,” when the even current of her life is disturbed by proposals from the rich squire, Henry Higgins (Mr. E. Hendrie), and the poor clergyman, the Rev. Jas. Braithwaite (Mr. E. B. Norman) the latter offering himself and being accepted, when he learns that his lady-love has dismissed his wealthy rival. A lighter vein of comedy is introduced into the more poetic vein in the loves of Naomi Wild (a little serving maid, remarkably well played by Miss Blanche Ferrar) and George Gammon, a young poacher, effectively rendered by Mr. Henry Bayntun. Mr. Hendrie threw much kindly feeling into the part of the disappointed squire.

___

 

The Stage (8 August, 1890 - p.8)

     Mr. Charles Bernard has secured the Royalty for a lengthened period for Mr. Robert Buchanan. So Sweet Nancy, which was withdrawn at the Lyric on Friday last, when in the full tide of success, in consequence of the expiration of Mr. Buchanan’s tenancy, will be produced with but little alteration in the cast at the Royalty on September 15.

___

 

The Theatre (1 September, 1890)
[From ‘Our Omnibus-Box.’]

     The wail raised from time to time against the inexorable infliction of the stage child, old and familiar though it has become, acquires fresh force as the thing itself grows in frequency and terror. Perhaps the “wickedest and the worst,” as was once sung of the Colorado beetle, is that fiendish specimen which is supposed to emanate from the States. The past month has given us two of exceptional horror. In “Aphrodite Dodge,” old playgoers were driven to believe that the climax of infamy in things juvenile on the stage had come at last. “That Girl” was taken by Mrs. Oscar Beringer and Mr. Henry Hamilton from a story by Miss Clementina Black, and the part of Aphrodite, an important one, was given to Miss Vera Beringer, who played it with fatal intelligence and skill. American children, we are told, are very different from our own, or perhaps it would be more correct to say, there are no American children; they are only immature little men and women. Consider that theory pushed to its utmost extreme; make the child, rude, conceited, inquisitive, forward; deprive it of all reverence and respect for its parents, elders, and superiors; endow it with preternatural sharpness, with a tongue and voice of deafening volubility; and a rich vocabulary furnished strictly up to date with all the hideous attractions of American slang, and you may possibly form some faint idea of the charms of the character who was made the dea ex machina of the play. Such persons—it is impossible to call them children—there may be, but their existence would prove an irresistible argument in favour of systematic infanticide; whilst the dreariest solitude would be preferable to their obnoxious presence. A character possessing many of these points of objection was recently given us in “The Great Unknown” at the Lyceum, and was impersonated by no less charming an actress than Miss Ada Rehan. This is the case of an older girl, of marriageable age, and yet young enough to wear pinafores and carry a slate suspended round her neck by a string. The really witless character of this part, the humour of which consisted of profuse recourse to American slang, was mitigated by a love scene delightfully played by Miss Rehan, but the amplitude of the vocabulary was nothing less than amazing. “Great sakes!” “There are no flies on me,” “I should smile,” “On my sacred say so,” “That’s just lollypops,” “Suits you down to the ground,” “Give him the bounce,” “Who are you, anyway?” “Oh, cut all that,” “I’ve got the Bard down fine,” are a few of the colloquial gems”with which Miss Rehan favoured us.

     Not that Americans are the only offenders in this respect. In “Sweet Nancy” we are introduced to a very fine specimen of that kind of family whose uncomfortable sayings contribute so liberally to the repertory of the comic journalist. We know that children, even amiable ones, do say grossly unpleasant things, sometimes with and sometimes without intention, and sometimes we may prefer frank outspokenness, even if it hurts us a little, to deceitful reserve in children. But that is no reason why the flippant rudeness of youngsters should be crystallised into stage dialogue more than is necessary for the purposes of illustration. No doubt it was desirable, in following out the design of Miss Broughton’s novel, that emphasis should be given to the bad bringing up of these children; this was amply done, and a little more, in the first act; but it was a mistake to continue hammering on the same note all through the second. The result was that, whereas the pert utterances and spoilt-child-like behaviour might have been amusing in moderation, people began to think what terribly unpleasant young people these must be to have always about you, and how great was the need for a little stiff corporal punishment. In fact, the audience might have laughed as guests laugh at the antics of their friends’ children when they have only to submit to them occasionally for a few minutes at a time, but who would savagely resent the same conduct if they were constantly exposed to it.

___

 

The Era (27 September, 1890 - p.10)

     THE Royalty Theatre will reopen under the management of Mr Robert Buchanan on Oct. 6th with Sweet Nancy, which was withdrawn from the Lyric Theatre in the height of its success. Mr. H. B. Norman will stage-manage and J. C. Bernard will manage the front.

___

 

The Morning Post (30 September, 1890 - p.2)

     Mr. Horace Sedger is sending on tour Robert Buchanan’s successful comedy, “Sweet Nancy.” The tour commences on Monday next at Northampton, and the company includes the following artists:—Messrs. J. R. Crauford, G.  Canninge, Murray-Innes, Harry Eversfield, Ogilvie Keith, Cecil Frere; Misses Terese Mayer, Emily Calhaem, Annie Osborn, Mirs. Canninge, Master Alfred Field Fisher, and Miss Evelyn Field Fisher.

___

 

The Era (4 October, 1890 - p.18)

AMUSEMENTS IN NORTHAMPTON.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)

     OPERA HOUSE.—Proprietor, Mr P. T. Dorman: Manager, Mr C. Rider-Noble.—Sweet Nancy, written by Mr Robert Buchanan, founded on Miss Rhoda Broughton’s well-known novel, was produced here on Monday last with a success that has been sustained during the week. Originally produced as a tentative measure at the Lyric Theatre, London, it has commenced its provincial career here, supported by a company engaged under the auspices of Mr Horace Sedger. Miss Emilie Calhaem in the title-rôle is bright and spontaneous in the early part of the comedy, and sweetly natural throughout. Mr J. R. Cranford is to be complimented on his share of the work as her suitor and husband General Sir Roger Tempest, and their joint efforts are warmly greeted. Mrs Huntley, a “grass widow,” is well played by Miss Terese Mayer. Mr Harry Eversfield distinguishes himself as Algernon Grey; Miss Annie Osborne is excellent as Barbara Grey; Frank Musgrave is played by Mr H. F. Murray-Innes with the necessary force and cynical expression; Mr George Canninge gives a consistent study of the type of character embodied in the part of Mr Grey, the father of Barbara; and Mrs Canninge as Mrs Grey is a capable representative of the patiently submissive wife. Mr Cecil Frere is good as Pendleton, Sir Roger’s butler, and the rest of the Grey family are well portrayed by Mr Ogilvy Keith, Miss E. F. Fisher, and Master A. F. Fisher. Palmistry has preceded the comedy each evening, being charmingly rendered by Mr J. R. Cranford and Miss Ada Barton.

___

 

The Guardian (7 October, 1890 - p.8)

     Miss Harriet Jay went into management at the Royalty Theatre last evening, opening her campaign with Mr. Robert Buchanan’s adaptation of Miss Broughton’s “Nancy.” Considerable changes have been made in the third act since the play was first produced at the Lyric Theatre, and though the conclusion is still rather feebly led up to, it is at least more effective and less long-drawn than before. The play as a whole is very entertaining, and the impersonation of Sweet Nancy by Miss Annie Hughes deserves to rank among the freshest and most truthful pieces of acting which the English stage has seen of recent years. Mr. Yorke Stephens (who replaces Mr. Henry Neville) has not sufficient weight for the part of Sir Roger Tempest, and acts with no great sincerity. Otherwise the cast is as good as need be. Miss Harriet Jay’s staid, subdued Barbara afforded a valuable foil to the exuberant vitality of Miss Hughes’s Nancy.

___

 

The Morning Post (7 October, 1890 - p.5)

ROYALTY THEATRE.
_____

     Mr. Robert Buchanan’s pretty comedy “Sweet Nancy” was interrupted in the midst of its successful career owing to the theatre being required for other performances. But it was transferred last night to the Royalty with some changes in the cast and with some other changes which were felt to be required when “Sweet Nancy” was first produced. The construction of the last act was voted feeble and inartistic, and this fault has been remedied by the author, so that, with a clever play and a company of decided ability, there is no reason why the comedy should not enjoy the favour of the play- going public for a long time. It has many attractive qualities, not the least being a vein of fresh and genial humour, and the conception of the schoolgirl heroine is extremely pleasing and natural. This character is played, as at first, by Miss Annie Hughes, who is especially fitted for the part both in appearance and talent. It is evident that she thoroughly comprehends the author’s intentions and realises them in a charming manner. The playful, warm-hearted, and capricious girl, who accepts the love of a middle-aged man, and overcomes all the difficulties of her position by her simplicity and goodness of heart, can hardly fail to be an attractive, and as played by Miss Annie Hughes she is so unquestionably. Mr. Yorke Stephens acts with much intelligence as the elderly husband, and Miss Harriett Jay imparts no little tenderness and feeling to the character of Barbara, the gentle girl who is so deceived in her lover. Miss Jenny McNulty represents the “grass widow,” who causes so much mischief. Mr. Esmond, Mr. Garthorne, and others deserved praise, and the comedy was well received. The performance began with a new comedietta, called “Pepper’s Diary,” by Mr. Arthur Morris, the idea being that of a young man of fashion finding the diary of a stockbroker at the theatre. In a whimsical spirit he follows out the suggestions in the diary, even to the extent of proposing to a young lady, the stockbroker’s young lady. The result is that the careless Pepper loses her, and the bold youth carries off the prize. The piece is slight but amusing, and it was well received. Mr. Hendrie was clever as the hero and Miss McNulty charming as the heroine.

___

 

The Echo (7 October, 1890 - p.1)

ROYALTY THEATRE.
_____

     At the end of last season Mr. Robert Buchanan took a short lease of the Lyric Theatre, and there produced his fairy play The Bride of Love, and Sweet Nancy, the latter an adaptation of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel “Nancy.” Last night, under the management of Miss Harriet Jay, the somewhat perilous experiment was tried of resuscitating the successful Sweet Nancy at a second house, after a prolonged break in its run. The little theatre was rather scantily filled with friends and others; but so surpassingly delightful was Miss Annie Hughes’s rendering of Nancy Grey, the wilful, winsome, petulant, unselfish, fearlessly outspoken, and quaint little child-wife, a character which from the first fitted the young actress like a glove, and which she has now endued with greater fascination than ever, that the attraction of her acting ought to be sufficient to give the play a long second lease of life. Mr. Yorke Stephens now plays Sir Roger Tempest, the elderly but romantically affectionate husband. His appearance is gallant and pleasing, but colonial rather than military; and he allows Sir Roger’s youthful heart, despite his “frosty pow,” to lighten his age more than is necessary. Mr. Garthorne makes Frank Musgrave, as is his wont, quite the conventional cavalry officer in the drawing-room. Mr. Ernest Hendrie’s cross-grained father still fails to be in any way convincing. Mr. Hallard and Miss B. Farrar are admirable as Bobby and Tow Tow. For Miss Harriet Jay’s benefit, as Barbara, certain alterations—or we believe we should more correctly say certain returns to the adapter’s original draft of the play—have been effected in the last act; and she is now much more successful in the scene in which her taste and feeling are taxed in explaining Nancy’s follies to her husband than in the earlier parts of the play where she is simply required to look girlish. Miss McNulty’s Mrs. Huntley, the syren of the piece, is an improvement; though she does not give the grass widow quite tone enough in her flirtations. The play is not particularly well mounted, the draperies at Tempest Manor are hardly æsthetic, and the ephemeral additions to the ornamentation of the lobby of the theatre might have been spared. Pepper’s Diary, by Mr. Arthur Morris, the new comedietta with which the performance opens, is apparently of French origin, and though its leading idea is good, it is not particularly well carried out.

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The Standard (7 October, 1890 - p.3)

ROYALTY THEATRE.
_____

     This house was reopened yesterday evening under the management of Miss Harriet Jay, the principal feature of the programme being Mr. Robert Buchanan’s comedy Sweet Nancy, which, it will be remembered, was played for a few weeks at the Lyric not long since. On its first presentation this version of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel won some acceptance, though its inequality was painfully apparent, the third act, in which the young wife allowed herself to be unjustly accused in order to save her sister some temporary suffering coming somewhat unnaturally after the freedom and freshness of the opening. The author has made certain modifications, which go far to remove the initial impression of inconsistency, and in its present shape Sweet Nancy, if not without flaw, is, at any rate, a wholesome and sympathetic play. Miss Annie Hughes and Miss Harriet Jay resume their original parts of the sisters Grey, and most of the smaller characters are also played as before; but Mr. Yorke Stephens now impersonates the elderly Benedict, Sir Roger Tempest, and acts with a fair amount of force and feeling.
     Mr. Buchanan’s piece was preceded by a new comedietta by Mr. Arthur Morriss, entitled Pepper’s Diary. In this trifling sketch a blasé youth, named Robert St. John, comes into possession of the diary of a stranger, and fulfils all the engagements therein named, including an offer of marriage. The idea has been utilised before, and its latest presentment contains little that is novel, though the piece is, on the whole, amusing, and it was nicely played by Miss Jenny McNulty, Mr. E. Hendrie, and Mr. Esmond.

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The Era (11 October, 1890)

THE ROYALTY.
On Monday, Oct. 6th, the Comedy.
in Three Acts,
Founded by Robert Buchanan on Miss Rhoda Broughton’s
Novel, “Nancy,” entitled
“SWEET NANCY.”

Sir Roger Tempest  ...     Mr YORKE STEPHENS
Frank Musgrave     ...    Mr C. W. GARTHORNE
Mr Grey                  ...     Mr ERNEST HENDRIE
Mrs Grey               ...    Miss ETHEL HOPE
Barbara Grey         ...    Miss HARRIETT JAY
Algernon Grey        ...     Mr HENRY V. ESMOND
Nancy Grey           ...    Miss ANNIE HUGHES
Robert Grey            ...     Mr. C. M. HALLARD
James Grey             ...     Master WALTER
Teresa Grey            ...     Miss B. FERRAR
Mrs Huntley            ...     Miss JENNIE McNULTY
Pendleton                ...     Mr SMITHSON
Footman                ...    Mr BENNETT

     After the production of Sweet Nancy at the Lyric Theatre on July 12th last, we remarked that the charming idyll of the popular authoress had been overloaded with dialogue by the adaptor, and that the chances of the success of the play would be greater if it were shortened to the extent of three-quarters of an hour by judicious condensation. Mr Buchanan has now taken half-an-hour out of his piece; but we are not certain that the elisions made have been altogether judicious. It was not so much with regard to incident that we recommended curtailment as with respect to dialogue and detail; and the adaptor has, besides “cutting” a good many lines, removed the dénouement of his play bodily, gaining brevity at the expense of interest. Originally, Mrs Huntley came on the scene at the conclusion, and made insinuations which were disposed of by the return of the repentant Musgrave, who had been summoned back by Barbara to confess his folly and to clear Nancy of all blame. This was a satisfactory and effective conclusion to the play, and might well have been retained, even had it been necessary to dispense with certain redundancies of eloquence which still remain in the mouths of the principal personages, and with the rhyming tag which Mr Buchanan has written for the revival, and which is totally out of place in an entertainment of so unaffected and simple a sort. In several cases, the situations are still insisted upon with undue verbosity, though what has been done in curtailment is work in the right direction, and quite commendable. The result was shown in the more favourable reception of the piece at the Royalty Theatre on Monday. There are a few changes in the cast, an important alteration being the substitution of Mr Yorke Stephens for Mr Henry Neville in the character of Sir Roger Tempest. Mr Stephens’s “General” shows but few marks of age, and thus, perhaps, the actor renders more probable the love of Nancy for her elderly husband. Mr C. W. Garthorne undertakes with firmness and solid merit the rôle of Frank Musgrave, formerly filled by Mr Bucklaw; and Miss J. McNulty now sustains that of Mrs Huntley, originally performed by Miss Frances Ivor. Despite occasional peculiarities of accent and style, Miss McNulty had an excellent idea of the character, and rendered it with cleverness and decision. Mr Ernest Hendrie was again the Mr Grey, and Miss Ethel Hope his submissive spouse. Miss Harriett Jay as Barbara, “aged 25,” was agreeably sweet and gentle; and Mr Henry V. Esmond repeated his excellent performance of the part of Algernon Grey. We have already praised Miss Hughes’s charming rendering of the rôle of Nancy, and have only to repeat our warm laudation thereof. Mr Smithson, as before, was comical as the butler, and the children’s parts were intelligently filled by their previous representatives. The smaller size of the Royalty Theatre was rather in favour of the success of the performance of Sweet Nancy, and the curtain was raised upon the company on the stage at its conclusion. Mr Buchanan’s adaptation was preceded by a new comedietta, in one act, by Arthur Morris, entitled

“PEPPER’S DIARY.”

Mrs Dorothy Pringle    ...     Miss JENNIE McNULTY
Hon. Robert St. John   ...     Mr E. HENDRIE
Major Bunderput        ...    Mr ESMOND
Mr Pepper                  ...     Mr SMITHSON
Letty                          ...    Miss MAY JOCELYN

Internal evidence suggested an origin in a French vaudeville; and the sketch had the crisp consistency of an entertainment of that kind. The Hon. Robert St. John, a much bored young man of the day, finding in the pocket of a coat which has been given him by mistake in the cloak-room of a theatre a diary of the prospective appointments of one Mr Pepper, a stockbroker, resolves, as a novel adventure, to live a day’s life according to the notes. One of the memoranda in the book was to have reminded its owner to call upon a certain pretty widow, named Mrs Dorothy Pringle, and to make her an offer of marriage. This the Hon. Robert duly does, much to the astonishment, and, subsequently, to the amusement of the lady. Finally, she takes a fancy to the young man for his whimsicality, and, after a certain amount of amusing badinage, Pepper arrives only to find himself too late in the field, as Mrs Dorothy has already accepted the Hon. Robert. Miss Jenny McNulty looked well in a pretty costume, and acted agreeably as Mrs Pringle; Mr E. Hendrie played the Hon. Robert St. John neatly and smartly; Mr Esmond was energetic as Mrs Pringle’s irritable uncle, Major Bunderput; Mr Smithson’s eccentric appearance as Pepper was amusing, and Miss May Jocelyn was lively and intelligent as a lady’s maid. Pepper’s Diary will probably go even better after a few nights, when even greater briskness and polish have been attained by the cast. It formed an acceptable prelude to the piece of the evening.

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The Penny Illustrated Paper (11 October, 1890 - p.9)

     The little Royalty Theatre, reopened by Mr. Robert Buchanan on Monday with his clever stage adaptation of Rhoda Broughton's novel “Sweet Nancy,” should be full to overflowing for many autumn and winter nights to come. Miss Annie Hughes, in the title-rôle of Sweet Nancy, a charming lass just out of her teens, and married to a middle-aged officer, who loves her devotedly, presents us with the freshest, most natural, and most delightful bit of girlish human nature conceivable. Don't fail to see “Sweet Nancy”—a gem of a play calculated to engross all classes of playgoers, replete with characterisation true to life, and greatly improved in its closing act since it was played at the Lyric. Mr. Yorke Stephens, in lieu of Mr. Henry Neville, enacts well the grizzled General who falls over head and ears in love with Nancy Grey. But it is the sweet, artless, bright, emotional creation of the young girl-wife by Miss Annie Hughes that should draw “All London” to the little Royalty. It is no exaggeration to say that her admirable acting is the very perfection of histrionic art—e.g., of the art that hides art. Words and expressions come spontaneously—not as if learned by rote. She is Nancy. Few prettier stage-pictures have been seen than the one in which Nancy is found seated on a high wall by her fond admirer, Sir Roger Tempest, of whom she speedily makes conquest. How Nancy’s love for her devoted husband develops after marriage, and triumphs over jealousy of the pretty grass-widow (Miss Jenny McNulty), and how her love and constancy are proof against the insidious addresses of a brother officer of the General are worked out in a series of domestic tableaux, the strong sentiment of which is judiciously relieved by the antics of Nancy’s brothers and sister, and by the selfishness of her crossgrained father. I strongly advise all who relish real dramatic art to hasten to see Miss Annie Hughes in what is undoubtedly her greatest stage triumph—her creation of bright and ingenuous “Sweet Nancy,” who has so noble a sister Barbara in Miss Harriet Jay. Well done indeed, Miss Hughes!

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The Portsmouth Evening News (11 October, 1890 - p.2)

     THE busiest playwright of to-day is Mr. Robert Buchanan. A few years ago his name only fitfully appeared in London play bills, but the Daily Chronicle reminds us that now he is responsible either wholly or in part for four dramas. He has “Sweet Nancy,” with which the Royalty has just reopened, and “The Sixth Commandment” at the Shaftesbury, besides joining Mr. Sims in “The English Rose” at the Adelphi, and Mr. Horner in “The Struggle for Life” at the Avenue. Next Monday he will have a fifth play running in London, “A Man’s Shadow” at the Grand. Messrs. Sims and Pettitt also have shares in two pieces each. They are united at the Gaiety with “Carmen Up to Data,” and are respectively interested in the Adelphi and Drury Lane (“A Million of Money”) performances.

ahughes

[Miss Annie Hughes]

NANCYAD

[Advert for Sweet Nancy from The Scotsman (14 October, 1890 - p.1).]

 

The Shields Daily Gazette and Shipping Telegraph (7 March, 1893 - p.3)

kangaroo

Sweet Nancy - continued

 

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