This poster, from the collections of the V&A Museum, was made in 1878. It advertises the 1878 Grand Pantomime at the Surrey Theatre, The House That Jack Built! or Harlequin Dame Trot.
First built in 1792, and demolished in 1934, the Surrey Theatre is probably my favourite illegitimate-and-now-not-there-any-more playhouse in London! It stood in Blackfriars Road, in the middle of (then) prostitute-ridden Lambeth. And yes, I have a favourite not-there-any-more-playhouse. My second favourite is the Coburg; I am the coolest person you know.
The Surrey was the first home of Douglas Jerrold‘s epically excellent melodramatic masterpiece, Black-Ey’d Susan (1829), which ran for over 300 nights and thoroughly embedded itself in nineteenth-century culture. Ira Aldridge performed there repeatedly in the 1840s.
The Surrey turns up a lot in the annals of the Basement Project (the sideline research I’ve been doing since August), and it lifts my heart every time.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.