Irish Engagement

              

An Irish Engagement;

A Farce in One Act

This classic Victorian farce, which debuted at the Marylebone Theatre on September 21, 1848, was written by Walter Watts, the manager of that establishment. The part of Tim Rafferty seems to have been created by Watts especially for Irish comedian James Hudson. In 1848, Hudson was on a whirlwind tour of London. Watts was only able to secure a one-week contract with him for the Marylebone between engagements at the Adelphi, Haymarket, and Drury Lane theaters. “An Irish Engagement” was a new and novel vehicle for the comedian that drew his fans to the out-of-the-way Marylebone. In surprisingly workman-like manner for a novice playwright, Watts sat down and hammered out a short farce that gave Hudson forty-five unfettered minutes to play his schickt to the delight of the crowd.


Synopsis:Comedian James Hudson

A reviewer from The Atlas summarized the play’s plot as follows in 1848;

Mr. Bullfinch has betrothed his daughter to a gentleman from Tipperary, whom he has never seen, while the young lady has, of course, chosen a lover for herself in the person of a Captain Foxlove. This gentleman hits upon the expedient of making his Irish servant, Tim Rafferty, personate the absent lover, and so to disgust the old gentleman and make him break the contract.1


Characters

Mr. Bullfinch

Mr. McCarthy

Captain Foxlove

Tim Rafferty

Julia Bullfinch

Norah

 

Original  London Cast




LONDON. 
Marylebone,  Sept. 18, 1848.
Mr. Bullfinch

Mr. G. Cooke.

Mr. McCarthy
Mr. Clifford.
Captain Foxlove
Mr. H. T. Craven.

Tim Rafferty


Mr. Hudson.
Julia Bullfinch
Miss F. Hamilton.
Norah
Miss M. Cooke.

                                         

Costumes

MB. BULLFINCH.— light blue coat, gilt buttons— white waistcoat — nankeen trousers — short gaiters.Ad for Original Production, 1848

MB. M'CARTHY.— Green coat— yellow waistcoat— black trousers — white hat.

CAPTAIN FOXLOVE.— 1st. Military undress. 2nd. light blue livery coat — top boots.

TIM RAFFERTY.— 1st. light blue livery coat— top boots. 2nd. Dress coat, gilt buttons — top boots— Opera hat.

JULIA. — A white muslin dress.

NORAH. — Stuff gown, looped up— mob cap.

Critical Reaction

“An Irish Engagement” was part of a full evening of performances featuring James Hudson.  According to the following review, it sent the audience home very happy;

Last evening the entertainments afforded him excellent scope for showing his varied comic powers; and they appeared to be thoroughly and completely relished by his hearers. In the laughable drama of The Nervous Man, his performance of the part of M’Shane was particularly rich… An Irish Engagement also affords capitol opportunity for some very ludicrous and entertaining acting… The house was well-attended and the evening’s proceedings passed off with some spirit.2

Resources

Online Copies of the play can be found at the Internet Archive and Google Books

A dramatic reading of the play is available at Librivox

Further Reading on this Play

Anna Cora Mowatt and the Luck of the Irish - Discussion of the origins of the play as a vehicle for comedian James Hudson

Anna Cora Mowatt and Walter Watts’ Irish Engagement literary analysis of the play

Notes

  1. “Amusements,” The Atlas, Sept. 23, 1848. p. 623.
  2. “Marylebone Theatre,” Morning Advertiser, September 26, 1848, page 3



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For more in-depth information and analysis
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Mowatt's life and career, read
The Lady Actress:
Recovering the Lost Legacy of a Victorian American Superstar

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