Kemble’s Riot

Adrian Bunting
Pleasance Dome

The idea of a play based around the “old price” riots that rocked the West End in 1809 is sound.

John Philip Kemble and his sister, Sarah Siddons were the theatrical stars of their day, loved by all, never more so than when portraying the Macbeths.

When Kemble’s uninsured Covent Garden Theatre was burnt to the ground, he heroically rebuilt it with borrowed money.

In order to pay for the venture, the actor-manager raised prices by 6d or 17%, the first rise in a century. The consequence was a long-running riot.

In this staging, the acting soon gives way to attempts to make the small audience behave like rowdy, modern football hooligans trying to out-shout each other. According to taste, this is rousing or deeply embarrassing. 

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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