London Hippodrome Programme 1909 - Special Feature
Hello and welcome to the April 2004 special feature.
This month the feature is on a programme for the London Hippodrome for November 1909. The Theatre opened on January 15th 1900 as a Circus, convertible to a Variety Theatre, by the lowering of its huge hydraulically powered water tank into the basement and replacement with stalls seating.
This Music Hall programme includes amazing details of the forthcoming Arena production called 'The Arctic' including 70 Polar Bears and a recreation of the Aurora Borealis no less. There are also details of past spectacular productions.
You won't believe what attractions the London Hippodrome used to attempt. The Programme is dated 25th November 1909.
This Feature was restructured in March 2015. The programme is now shown in full with relevant text transcribed beside each image. Enjoy!
THE LONDON HIPPODROME.
WILL be an epoch-marking date in the History of Theatres. Then, for the first time, a fully-seated house will change to an Arena with its accessories of Water, and Spectacular, Engineering, and Mechanical devices.
The seating of a portion of the Auditorium will be moved away, the Stage will be broken in half and telescoped, one half under the other, disclosing the Ring as a part of the Stage with its Lake of Water, and its wonderful realistic setting of...
The title and material of this original Spectacle has been chosen on account of the great interest which current events have centred in these unknown and romantic regions. Enormous expense has been incurred, and no pains have been spared to obtain from actual Explorers, such descriptions of these icy solitudes as have enabled the Hippodrome Management to present a series of Pictures that will place the observer veritably in the midst of the endless expanse of snow and ice of the Paleocrystic Sea which surrounds the Pole.
Takes as its chief incident the result of the wreck of a Polar Explorer and his ship, when, during the absence of the hero, his friend declares his attachment to the girl, who in her romantic devotion to her lover has determined to brave the dangers of this terrible Expedition.
The return of the hero, and the assistance of some friendly Esquimeaux, frustrated his wicked intentions but does not entirely relieve the situation.
A fight ensues between the two men, and the intensity of horror is reached when the hero is thrown headlong into a crevasse among the icebergs.
Again the friendly Esquimeaux intervene and the hero is saved, and the lovers make their escape on to the Ship, which we see stranded and battered upon an enormous ice floe.
We now come to the great and final Scene, giving entry to the unheard of number of 70 POLAR BEARS, who, making short work of the villain, pour down from every glittering, icy pinnacle and overrunning every point dash into the waters.
Never before has so stupendous a gathering of the white coated denizens of the Arctic been seen together and the difficulty of obtaining so many of these, now rarely met with, animals has been incalculable.
The Scene presented to the observer at this crisis is almost beyond description. Below - the 70 Polar Bears disport themselves in the water and above - an apparently illimitable extent of icebergs, rearing their transparent summits high into the air, is exposed to view; weird indeed and wonderful is the effect obtained as these great masses of ice move slowly with the drifting floes, lit by the rays of the Midnight Sun - as it were - into their very depths.
Out from the dimness of the distant horizon is seen the first flicker of the
which shooting its dazzling rays towards the whole ice-bound scene in an effulgence of golden and iridescent glory.
All previous attempts at spectacular realism sink into insignificance beside this tremendous display, and there is little doubt that "The Artic" will be pronounced a triumph of the Hippodrome's endevours in this direction.
THE LONDON HIPPODROME
Which was first opened on January 15th, 1900, was - with the single exception of the day of Her Late Majesty Queen Victoria's Funeral - closed for the first time on April 3rd, 1909, when it was found impossible longer to delay a complete scheme of re-decoration and re-furnishing.
THIS UNINTERRUPTED RUN
of 5,782 performances, twice daily, is a record which has never been approached by any other Theatre in the world.
Below will be found a short review of the principal Spectacles produced, which will probably prove interesting reading to those who did not witness them, and recall many a pleasant hour to those who did.
SOME OF THE HIPPODROME'S SPECTACULAR ATTRACTIONS.
A story of Russian Military and social life, drew all London for a long period and concluded with a runaway sleigh, drawn by three almost unmanageable horses, and containing four people, dashing down an ice slope into the semi-frozen river, and presumably drowning all concerned.
A realistic picture of an actual fox hunt from "Meet" to "Kill," finishing with the entire hunt. Fox, hounds, huntsmen and company taking to the water, followed by the old lady in the market cart, whose runaway pony insisted on being " In at the Death."
In which a four horse coach containing the heroine and principal characters in dashing across a bridge comes to grief by the structure collapsing, plunging horses, coach, and occupants into the river below.
An extraordinary spectacle of a large number of Native Indian canoes, maneuvred by copper-coloured warriors, shooting the Rapids from a height of nearly seventy feet.
Above - A London Hippodrome Postcard sent from London to Dresden in 1903, it reads: 'My dear Eddy Yesterday I went to the Hippodrome and I saw a lot of red-Indians fighting and I liked it very much. I came home yesterday morning for half term and I am going back Monday. Best love from Eric.'
With its almost appalling scene of devastation and wreck, showed the bursting of the Reservoir, carrying away oxen, sheep, dogs, horses, human beings, houses and debris into the boiling waters.
A vivid representation of a City square-in a few seconds-converted into a mass of wreckage - Walls arches roofs and deep foundation stone-all mingling fell;" whilst fire and tidal wave added their terrific realism to the horrors of the scene.
Presenting a ship at sea with such accuracy of detail that many seafaring men expressed their delight and congratulations to the Management. The moon-lit waves washing the ship's side in turbulent confusion, the exhaust steam pipes, the smoke stack, the steam whistle, the thud of the engines, the lighted range of cabin ports, the flag flying in an apparently fresh breeze, and, in fact, the entire working of a ship's deck brought the realism so close to nature that the least imaginative felt, and knew, what was meant by "a night at sea."
Placed the spectator in the midst of snow and ice and Alpine scenery. To give additional realism, the three Champion Skiers of the world were brought from Trondhejm in Norway, and the three most celebrated Guides of the Alps were induced to appear nightly, leading, parties of tourists from craig to craig.
The final catastrophe, which gave the title to the piece, was so cleverly handled that the hearts of the stoutest were thrilled.
"THE SANDS O' DEE."
One of the most sensational spectacles ever seen on a stage, and the huge waves, each consisting of five tons of water, breaking with tremendous force upon the shore, stand "facile princeps" in all the wonders of stagecraft.
The excitement -and alarm of the audience during the imminent peril of the drowning of the heroine, was such that an irrepressible shout of intense relief burst spontaneously forth, as the calamity was at the last second averted by the courage of the hero, who plunged on horseback into the foaming breakers.
WONDERS FROM ALL PARTS.
Every portion of the world has been called upon, from time to time, to supply its quota to the Hippodrome programme.
Thirty bears, direct from the Polar regions, have disported themselves at one time in the arena; at another, twenty elephants from India caused shrieks of laughter by their ungainly and ludicrous antics in sliding down a deep incline into the water, whilst twenty-five forest bred lions have been introduced at liberty by the indomitable Seeth, and twenty Bengal tigers by the no less daring Sawade.
At an enormous expense trained fishing Cormorants were brought from China, this necessitated the conveyance of the birds over land for upwards of 2000 miles with two attendants, and their bamboo raft thirty-five feet long, a truly wonderful achievement.
Even more difficult was the task of bringing the Pygmies from the Ituri Forest, in the centre of Stanley's "Darkest Africa," and enabling Londoners to witness their strange and weird dances. This was effected by the instrumentality of Colonel J. J. Harrison, and the difficulties over which lie triumphed would make no bad material for a story of their own.
One of the most novel acts ever presented in a house of entertainment was that of the "Australian Woodcutters." To obtain these it was necessary to send a personal representative into the interior of the Bush, find out the champion exponents of the art of wielding the axe, induce them to come to England. When this was finished, however, only half the difficulties were overcome. It was found impossible to reproduce the act of the Australian Backwoods in London without the actual timber upon which the men had been accustomed to work, and the extraordinary decision arrived at to get 2,000 tons of the Blue Gum Tree from the interior to the sea coast and then shipped to London. This act when it was eventually produced was an enormous attraction; the opening night being under the personal patronage of His Majesty's Government, in the person of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whilst everyone of the Agents General were present with their Officers,
As a proof of the successful result of his tremendous venture, although the men were engaged for eight weeks, the engagement was extended from time to time until they ultimately completed an unbroken run of fifty-six weeks before returning to Australia.
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