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The Corsican Brothers

 

Released 11th August 1854

 

Green’s Title Sheet in “The Corsican Brothers”.

 

The Story

 

“The Corsican Brothers” is a story of revenge and honour, adapted by Dion Bouciault from the original book by Alexandre Dumas of 1845 and was first performed at the Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street, St. Marylebone, London in February 1852.

 

The twin brothers from the title are Fabian and Louis Dei Franchi. When the play begins, Fabian is at the family home in Corsica, and Louis is living in Paris. Acts one and two are supposed to occur simultaneously, act one showing Fabian's reactions to a vision and act two showing what did actually happen. At the end of act one the audience, Fabian, and his mother, see the ghost of Louis appear on the stage and shows them the image of his death.

 

The two brothers fall in love with the same lady, Madame De Lesparre. Fabian allows his brother to pursue Madame De Lesparre to Paris while he stays in Corsica with their mother. Unfortunately, on arriving in Paris, Louis discovers that Madame De Lesparre has been married and he vows to stay away from her. However, her husband, curious at Louis refusal to meet with them, questions him. Louis admits that he was in love with Madame De Lesparre. Instead of being angry, her husband admires Louis' honesty and asks him to protect her while he is away on a trip.

 

Chateau Renaud, a duellist and womaniser also admires Madame De Lesparre. They both arrive at a dinner party Louis is attending and, after an argument, Lady De Lesparre asks Louis to take her home. Chateau Renaud takes offence and challenges Louis to a duel, who accepts the challenge. The scene ends with Louis being killed by a sword wound to the heart and swearing to being avenged.

 

Act three opens with Chateau Renaud and Montgiron, Renaud's friend, trying to flee the country after Louis' death. However, their carriage crashes in the very part of the forest where Louis died. Fabian Dei Franchi suddenly appears from among the trees and both the other men think they are looking at the ghost of Louis. Fabian introduces himself and swears to have revenge on the man who killed his brother. After a lengthy sword fight Chateau Renaud is killed, Louis is avenged. The play ends with the ghost of Louis advancing across the stage.

 

 

Royal Approval

 

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were ardent theatregoers and great admirers of Mr Kean the Impresario and leading actor at The Princess's Theatre. Queen Victoria saw The Corsican Brothers five times and Kean organised private theatricals at Windsor Castle. The Theatre Museum holds a letter written by Queen Victoria to Kean’s widow lamenting his death.

Queen Victoria also wrote in her Journal on 28th April 1856 about the The Corsican Brothers:-
"Though the performance lasted from shortly after 8 to a quarter past 12 the interest never flagged for one minute and one was led from one more splendid scene to another… Albert was in ecstasies for the mise en scene, the beautiful and numerous changes of scenery, the splendid and strictly correct antique costumes, all taken from the best works and models, the excellent grouping of every scene, the care with which every trifle was attended to, make a unique performance."

Henry Irving later revived the play in the 1880's, in a tour de force of romantic body-doubling, playing both brothers.

 

 

The Toy Theatre Play.

 

Like most toy theatre plays, “The Corsican Brothers” is based on an actual stage production of the time, as performed at the Princess's Theatre, Oxford Street. The characters and scenes of this toy theatre play were originally created by John Kilby Green in 1854. John Kilby Green was one of the toy theatre’s most prolific publishers and also claimed to be the “original inventor”. The script for the toy theatre version is changed only slightly and still retains much of the drama and special effects of it’s full sized counterpart.

 

The famous illusion called the Corsican Trap was invented for The Corsican Brothers. It was a mechanism designed to produce an apparition on stage. By today's standards it is quite primitive; just an actor standing on a platform rolled up an incline beneath the stage floor, but it was a great sensation at the time. With the use of a toy stage incorporating a trap door, the Corsican Trap can be recreated and the ghost of Louis can appear on stage just as he did for Queen Victoria over 150 years ago.

 

Few original sheets from Green’s production survive and certainly not enough to create a complete coloured set. Luckily for us, on Green’s death in 1860, John Redington, Green’s former agent, acquired Green’s printing plates and in turn he left them to his son-in-law to be, Benjamin Pollock upon his own death in 1876. Pollock used the lithographic stone to print his sheets so he was able, with ease, to replace the imprint of JK Green with his own. To all intense and purposes the prints were still JK Green’s, just with “Green’s” replaced by “Pollock’s” on the top of each sheet and the printers address changed at the bottom of each sheet. The colouring of the sheets was carried out mostly by Benjamin’s Pollock’s daughter, Louisa Pollock. In the early days the painting was done freehand, but Pollock soon developed a stencilling technique to create consistent and speedy results. Many of the stencils still survive today at “Pollock’s Toy Museum” at 1 Scala Street, London.

 

To perform the play you needed 13 sheets in all, of characters, scenery and wings - and a book of the words, which also gave instructions on how to perform the play.

 

Notes:

 

Character & Scenery Plates

 

Character Plates

 

Plate 1

Plate 2

Plate 3

Plate 4

Plate 5

Plate 6

 

Scene Plates

 

Scene 1 – Original for this play

Scene 2 – Original for this play

Scene 3 – Original for this play

Scene 4 – Original for this play

Scene 5 – From The Brigand

Frontispiece for Playbook

 

 

Wing Plates

 

 

Image

Wing Plate No.

Original Play

Imprint Date

Wing Plate 38

The Corsican Brothers

1854

Wing Plate 39

The Corsican Brothers

1854

 

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