Saturday night at the Victoria Theatre, The Graphic, October 26 1872


Music Hall


  • Intro

    Music hall was one of the most popular forms of affordable entertainment in the Victorian period. Members of the public flocked to theatres around the country to sing along to favourite popular songs, or watch entertainments as diverse as acrobats, trapeze artists, ‘operatic selections’, ‘black-face minstrels’, or can-can dancers. This illustration from The Graphic newspaper shows the audience clambering over the edge of the balcony to catch sight of the acts at the Victoria Theatre. 


    The audio in this section is from the Dictionary of London (1879) by Charles Dickens Junior (the first son of the famous author). It describes in detail the many diverse entertainments on offer at the music hall including 'performing animals, winners of walking. matches, successful scullers, shipwrecked sailors, swimmers of the Channel, conjurers, ventriloquists and tight-rope dancers.' 



  • Video

  • Audio

    Can't play the file above? Listen to the audio clip here

  • Transcript

    Music Hall

    Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens junior, 1879

    Music Halls—.... Ballet, gymnastics, and so-called comic singing, form the staple of the bill of fare, but nothing comes foreign to the music-hall proprietor. Performing animals, winners of walking. matches, successful scullers, shipwrecked sailors, swimmers of the Channel, conjurers, ventriloquists, tight-rope dancers, campanologists, clog-dancers, sword-swallowers, velocipedists, champion skaters, imitators, marionettes, decanter equilibrists, champion shots, “living models of marble gems,” “statue marvels,” fire princes, “mysterious youths,” “spiral bicycle ascensionists,” flying children, empresses of the air, kings of the wire, “vital sparks,” Mexican boneless wonders,” white-eyed musical Kaffirs,’ strong-jawed ladies, cannon-ball performers, illuminated fountains, and that remarkable musical eccentricity the orchestre militaire, all have had their turn on the music-hall stage. Strangers to the business may be warned that the word “turn,’ as understood in the profession, means the performance for which the artist is engaged, and frequently comprises four or more songs, however much or little of pleasure the first effort may have given the audience. Furthermore, as many of the popular performers take several “turns” nightly, it is undesirable to visit many of these establishments on the same evening, as it is quite possible to go to four or five halls in different parts of the town, and to find widely diverse stages occupied by the same sets of performers.

Find out more about the Music Hall Here

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