London at the End of the Century:A Book of Gossip
a Beckett, Arthur William
PROGRESS BEFORE AND BEHIND THE CURTAIN.
At the end of the century the insurance companies might well lessen their charges for playhouses, as theatres are infinitely safer than they were only a decade ago. The substitution of the electric light for gas and the regulations of the Lord Chamberlain's Office may have had something to do with this welcome change. Looking through the papers in one seldom reads of a temple of the drama destroyed by fire. Not so long ago it was a standing line of the contents bill. The new theatres are so built that they are isolated. The Shaftesbury, for instance, has a road on every side, and like precautions are being taken in the theatres now in course of construction. Besides this, the new century sees improvements on either side of or to give it its full dress title, the proscenium curtain. The luxurious lounges of the stalls nowadays find their way into the pit and even into the front rows of the gallery. The marble of the restaurants invades the auditoriums of the theatres. Behind the scenes the arrangements are excellent. Stages can be sunk and all sorts of new contrivances lessen the labour of the carpenters. The dressing rooms of the company, that a score of years ago would have been a disgrace as box rooms of fifth-rate charity schools, now have
|many of the comforts of the best hotels. Even the greenroom is brighter and in better taste than it was in the days of yore. Now that authors (following the precedent set by Dion Boucicault and Tom Robertson) have become their own stage managers, there is less of the that used to shock the susceptibilities of novices transferred to Bohemia from Mayfair. The familiarity that breeds contempt has all but disappeared, and the talk at a rehearsal is not unlike the conversation of a drawing room in common form.|