Theatre Royal Haymarket

1837 – Benjamin Webster

Benjamin Webster : the Royal Box

In 1837, Benjamin Webster succeeded Morris, placing the theatre once again in the hands of an actor-playwright. Under Webster’s watch, a progression of the finest actors, including the great William Macready, trod the boards, and a young Queen Victoria became a regular attendee. The Queen was to become friendly with Webster and, as a result, the Royal Receiving Room (now the VIP Room) and the Royal Box (now Box No.1) were created.

Actor John Buckstone was next in line for the theatre, having played its stage for 20 years. Buckstone, also a firm friend of the Queen, brought many an innovation to the schedule, at one time running a series of up to 4 plays, back to back in one evening, which brought the final curtain crashing down at an impressive 1am. This he juxtaposed with a string of fast-paced farces bringing comedy back to the theatre.

One notable success was Tom Taylor’s, My American Cousin, which involved one ‘Lord Dudreary’, who took London men’s fashion scene by storm with his dandified manner, elegant clothes and a set of outrageous whiskers curled to his shoulders. The demand for his look was (rather inexplicably) huge and even prompted a new entry in the dictionary.

This now legendary character was created by actor Edward Southern and the play ran for 500 nights, the first extended run in theatrical History, making Buckstone a phenomenal sum of £30,000.

Did you know? The Theatre Royal Haymarket Archive documents the fascinating history of the theatre. To find out more, click here

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