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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Regency Theatre — 14 Comments

  1. How fascinating. It seems that most people didn’t actually watch much of the performance and I don’t imagine it was prudent to wear your best clothes only to risk being covered in hot wax. I didn’t realise the problem with dimming the lights and wonder if that would affect the ‘kissing in the back row ‘ !!!
    Thanks for this post. These are my favourite type of history lessons.

    • I would imagine wearing your best clothes was not prudent, but since it could be the gossip of the next day, I would imagine people did anyways. Actually, the fact that they did not dim the lights was one of the first things I learned researching Regency theatre. I had always wondered before how they dimmed the lights without taking 30-40 minutes to extinguish candles! Thanks, Glynis!

  2. Fascinating glimpse into theatre attendance! As much as I love the Regency/Victorian period, knowing what we know now, I wouldn’t want to really live back then. Can you imagine someone from back then time traveling to now? They would love the cell phones and instant scandal on everyone!

  3. I feel sorry for the poor actors; their performances weren’t nearly as important as all of the business dealings, flirtations, displays of the latest fashions, and conversations. And the house lights weren’t dimmed, either!

    Sheesh.

    • Quite a bit different than we imagine sometimes, isn’t it? I think having everything bright was better than a fire, though. 😉 Thanks, Susanne!

  4. Pretty much what I expected as I did a lot of research for an itty bitty scene in Darcy’s Melody a while back. However, you did have a few gossipy items that were new so this was great fun. Thanks, as always. Jen

    • I didn’t want it to be just research since the gossipy stuff would make things a bit more interesting. I’m glad that you found something you didn’t know in those parts!! Thanks, Jen!

  5. How interesting. The theatre looks much different than what I was expecting. Though they would look like theatres built between 1880s – 1920s. Never stopped to think about all the candles. If oil lamps were used back then, they would be easier to dim the lights. Either could be dangerous in a wooden building.

    • There are a lot of conflicting dates about when gas lamps were put in, which though tricky, allowed for dimming. Some sites say there was some gas lights as early as 1812 but according to a site by a community college on the history of lighting in the theatre, gas lamps were not used for stage lighting at Drury Lane until 1845. Gas was still considered risky and I couldn’t find any reference to dimming the lights until after 1850. Thanks, Carol!

  6. I suppose they were so used to having the lights up so they could crowd watch, it didn’t occur to them that dimming them would be a good idea. I have looked at the gaslight situation, my impression is that outside gaslights developed in a very spotty fashion and took a lot longer than we would intuitively think.

    • I wonder if people were so gun shy in a way about dimming because of all of the fires in the past. One of the first things I do when I write a theatre scene is run back to the research to make sure which theatre I have to use. It’s so difficult to keep up with the fires! 🙂 Thanks, hon!

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