The Bells produced in 1871 made a star of Henry Irving and ran for 150 performances at the Lyceum Theatre - indeed Irving kept the part going for several decades. It was firmly based though, on a French orginal Le Juif Polonais, by Erckmann-Chatrian and we have tried to reinstate some of the lost material from the earlier version - "The bells, the bells....!" For dates and times of performances, please see the Current page.
REVIEW: Time Out (11 January 2006 issue)
Why are there so few revivals of popular Victorian melodramas on the London stage nowadays? Might the reason be that they are, for the most part, rotten? Possibly. All the same, it’s worth making at least a partial exception for Leopold Lewis’s breezy little chiller The Bells, which offers sufficient psychological interest and visceral terror, as well as an intriguing use of flashbacks and dream sequences, to make it worth 70 minutes of any collector of theatrical curios’ time.
When it was staged at the Lyceum in 1871, Lewis’s Grand Guignol tale of murder and mesmerism launched the career of Henry Irving, the great Victorian actor-manager. Irving’s performance as the guilt-deranged Mathias caused one excited newspaper proprietor to exclaim to his theatre critic: Tonight I have seen a great actor at the Lyceum – a great actor. Write about him so that everyone shall know he is great.
This is very much a play that stands or falls by its central performance – indeed, an earlier production in 1871 that didn’t enjoy the benefits of Irving’s genius flopped. So how does the leading man at the Rosemary Branch, Mansel David, measure up? Quite well, actually: on the night I saw it he still seemed a little undecided about how big to make his Quasimodo-esque The bells! The bells! moment, but he certainly rolled his eyes and clutched at his throat very effectively. In addition, Ben Bazell’s production has plenty of atmosphere, with a nice use of music and coloured lighting. Fun.
REVIEW: The Spectator (14 January 2006 issue)
…The show is presented with great professionalism and sincerity. The scary bits are scary, the funny bits are funny and an atmosphere of tension and mystery is evoked with excellent music and inventive sound effects. Talent and hard work aplenty…
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