Entertaining Cardiff – 130 years ago this month, April 1889

The playbills for the Theatre Royal throw a fascinating light on what the theatre going crowds in Cardiff were flocking to see 130 years ago.


Pride of place in the first week of April 1889 went to a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. With one of the strongest casts fielded by the company on tour and a new and extravagant set based on the scenery used at the Savoy Theatre no holds were barred for this production. However, the competition was fierce. The Grand Theatre on Westgate Street was drawing in the crowds for an ever changing menu of comedy and drama featuring, in the first week of April, The Fools Revenge, School for Scandal and Faint Heart never won fair lady. There was also competition from Tayleure’s Circus and the ‘prestidigateur’ Professor Duprez and his magical illusions at the Park Hall.

Reports suggest that D’Oyly Carte swept the board in the first week of April. However, the mix of opera and Shakespeare offered by the Theatre Royal in mid-April was far less popular when the crowds flocked to see Muldoon’s Picnic at The Grand described as …a laughable Yankee-Hibernian absurdity.

If you would like to see the playbill for The Yeoman of the Guard at the Theatre Royal in April 1889 it is held at the Glamorgan Archives, reference D452/3/36.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer