Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Drawing of the Day: The Freak's Revenge, 1907

Fred Conquest in costume
Performing "The Freak's Revenge" from "For Ever."
George Cooke, 1907
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This caricature of Edwardian Music Hall performer Fred Conquest depicts the performer starring in “The Freak’s Revenge” at the Grand Theatre of Varieties, Hanley, during the week of April 22, 1907.

This drawing is one of the collection of many superb caricatures of Edwardian music hall performers that were drawn by the artist George Cooke who would later compile these sketches in a series of albums which now reside at the V&A.

Fred Conquest (1870-1941) made his first pantomime appearance at the age of four at the Grecian Theatre in London when the venue was still managed by his father, George Conquest. 
 As an adult, Conquest made his first appearance at the Surrey Theatre in 1889 and achieved his most profound success in his father’s famous role of “Zacky the Monkey” in “For Ever.   In 1901, Conquest, managed the Surrey Theatre briefly upon the death of his father.  There, he continued to appear in pantomime and music hall sketches.

“For Ever” also known as “The Freak’s Revenge” was the story of the revenge of a side show performer, Zacky, who was billed as a “man-monkey.”  The “freak” wished to exact revenge upon the captain who ran away with his wife and daughter. The show’s climax was recorded as “the struggle to death” between the man-monkey and the savage gorilla, which he had mistakenly sent into the room of his own daughter.

Cooke, using pen, ink and wash, shows Conquest full-length, standing dressed in a red shirt and black trousers with the wild mane of hair and long sideburns which he wore in the role.
  This image is taken from the show’s gripping climax as the man-monkey is looking madly at a bottle of brandy which he is clutching with both hands.

The performance was billed as “The most Original and Sensational Sketch now on the Variety Stage” and audiences were enticed to “See the Struggle to Death between the Man-Monkey and the Gorilla.”

No comments: