So if you take a seat in the Pit Stalls, ladies, you won’t have to remove your bonnet! This is from the programme of a Theatre Royal, Brighton production in 1888.
It had not been long under the stewardship of ‘Proprietess, Ellen Nye Chart’ (1839 – 92). Despite being a widow and a single mother Ellen managed to turn a £6,000 debt into a £38,000 asset and make sure that Brighton would be forever on the country’s theatrical map when she became manager.
Ellen was born a builder’s daughter in Islington. Arriving in Brighton as an actress with a gig at the theatre she ended up marrying the actor-manager Henry Nye Chart. When he died not long afterwards she decided she wouldn’t retire into the shadows as was often the custom for widows but take the theatre by the reins. Her creativity and good business sense are legendary. She made the theatre more accessible, introduced a wider variety of productions and performers, inaugurated the annual pantomime (to which the inmates of Brighton Workhouse were invited to attend for free) and instigated ‘flying matinees’ where the hits of the London stage decamped to Brighton in the morning to put on a matinee performance before getting the evening train back to London. Ellen Nye Chart made sure Brighton would always be on the country’s theatrical map. She’s just one of the many women I’ll be talking about on Friday 8th February at the Dome, Brighton. Also expect to hear about some music-hall legends, early comediennes, divas of early film, drag artists, and iconic soap actresses. See below…
Here’s a link to an interview I gave The Dome a few weeks ago….