William Macready the Elder
William Macready the Elder (1755–1829) was an Irish actor-manager.
The son of a Dublin upholsterer, Macready started his career playing in Irish country towns. He joined the Capel Street Theatre in Dublin in 1782, and the Crow Street Theatre later during the 1782–3 season. The next season, he was brought to the Mill Gate Theatre, by Michael Atkins. He was in 1785 a member of the company at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin.
The London stage
Macready appeared at Covent Garden Theatre, 18 September 1786, as Flutter in the Belle's Stratagem, and remained there ten years, playing parts such as Gratiano, Paris, Young Marlow, Figaro, Fag, and Tattle in Love for Love, and producing two plays by himself. He returned to Dublin to take summer parts, to the early 1790s.
At Covent Garden Macready took only supporting roles, to 1797: he was one of the proverbial "second-rate walking gentlemen". Then he sought to become an actor-manager outside London, with mixed success. He began in management at Birmingham, around 1795–6; in 1796 George Davies Harley was denying a rift there with Macready.
Macready managed a variety season in 1797, unsuccessfully, the Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square, then east of London; his company was drawn from other theatres. The programme was directed towards burlettas and pantomimes.
Macready is best known as manager of the theatres at Birmingham, Sheffield, and other provincial towns and cities; but his ambitions were not fulfilled. In 1806 he took over at Newcastle from Stephen George Kemble, holding the lease to 1818. Macready also attempted but failed in management in Manchester. He was jailed for debt in Lancaster Castle in 1809. At that time he owed money on the Newcastle lease, and was trying to manage a group of theatres in locations also including Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.
Last years at Bristol
Macready took on the lease of the Theatre Royal, Bristol in 1819, from John Boles Watson II, son of John Boles Watson who had built up a southern and Welsh circuit of 40 provincial theatres. He initially brought in Daniel Terry and Elizabeth Yates to launch the new management, with the help of his son.
Macready was responsible for two adapted dramas. The Irishman in London; or, the Happy African, 1793 and 1799, performed 21 April 1792, was an adaptation of a farce called The Intriguing Footman, attributed to James Whiteley, manager at Nottingham. This work became popular on both sides of the Atlantic, being performed at the John Street Theatre in New York on 5 June 1793. Its use of blackface acting is considered an influence into the 19th century; it featured a contrast of the stage Irish and African servant. The censor John Larpent applied the blue pencil to some of the language of the play directed at a black female character, Cubba.
The Village Lawyer, a farce, 1795, Haymarket, 28 August 1787, is ascribed to Macready, but probably in error, in a pirated edition. It is an adaptation of L'Avocat Pathelin by David-Augustin de Brueys; there is reason to believe that George Colman the Elder translated it. It has also been attributed to Charles Lyons, an Irish schoolmaster.
Macready married, 18 June 1786 in Manchester, Christina Ann Birch, an actress, the daughter of a surgeon in Lincolnshire. Mrs. Macready, who played secondary parts, died in Birmingham 31 December 1803, aged 38. William Macready was their son. He was the fifth of eight children of the marriage. Another of Macready's sons, Major Edward Nevil Macready, commanded the Light Company of the 30th Regiment of Foot in the closing stages of the Battle of Waterloo.
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- G. Rennie Powell, The Bristol Stage: its story (1919), pp. 34–6; archive.org.
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- "W. C. Macready and Cheltenham: Unveiling of memorial tablet". Gloucester Citizen. 16 March 1927. Retrieved 26 October 2015 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (. ))