Trelawny of the 'Wells'

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Trelawny of the 'Wells'
Cover of an early edition
Written by Arthur Wing Pinero
Date premiered January 29, 1898 (1898-01-29)
Place premiered Court Theatre, London
Original language English
Subject theatre, class, love
Genre comedy
Setting London in the 1860s

Trelawny of the 'Wells' is an 1898 comic play by Arthur Wing Pinero. It tells the story of a theatre star who attempts to give up the stage for love, but is unable to fit into conventional society.


Trelawny of the 'Wells' tells the story of Rose Trelawny, a popular star of melodrama plays at the Barridge Wells Theatre (a thinly disguised Sadler's Wells Theatre). Rose gives up the stage when she decides to marry her sweetheart, Arthur Gower, in order to please his conservative family. She finds life with Arthur's grandfather and great-aunt, Sir William and Lady Tralfagar, unbearably dull and they detest her loud and unrestrained personality. Rose runs back to the theatre, abandoning Arthur. But her experience of the 'real world' has killed her talent for melodrama, and she cannot recapture the liveliness that had made her a star. Meanwhile, Arthur has secretly run away to become an actor at the Bristol Old Vic.

The problem is solved when Rose encounters Sir William again, and she reawakens his memory of admiring the great actor Edmund Kean as a young man. Sir William offers to help Rose's friend Tom Wrench, an aspiring playwright who dreams of staging plays in a more realist style than the melodramas that dominate the stage. Tom stages the play with Rose as the star, and her newfound seriousness fits his style perfectly. Tom secretly arranges for Arthur to play the leading male role, and the lovers are reunited on stage.

Subject matter

The play is about the theatre of the 1860s and Pinero insisted that the costume and production design perfectly recapture the fashions of the period. It depicts the melodrama that was popular at the time, but Tom Wrench's play is a reference to the new, more realistic drawing-room comedies that were beginning to be staged at the Prince of Wales's Theatre.[1]


The play was first staged at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 20 January 1898. It received lukewarm reviews.

Trelawny opened in New York on 22 November 1898, at producer Daniel Frohman's old Lyceum Theatre. It ran for 131 performances and starred Mary Mannering in the title role of Rose Trelawny, Hilda Spong, Mrs. Thomas W. Whiffen (whose husband also appeared in the cast), and Elizabeth Tyree. Fred Williams directed, E.G. Unitt designed the sets, Percy Anderson designed the costumes, and Frank Howson composed the incidental music.[2]

Pinero revised Trelawny heavily for performance at the Old Vic in 1925.[3] It was revived in New York that year, as well as in 1911, 1927 and 1975.[4]

Trelawny of the Wells (by Arthur Wing Pinero), 1992 – 1993, at Comedy Theatre, Theatre Royal, Bath London. (Jason Connery as Arthur Gower, Sarah Brightman as Rose Trelawny, Helena Bonham Carter as Imogen Parrot)[5][6]

Trelawny of the Wells (by Arthur Wing Pinero) by National Theatre, since 12th February 1993, at Olivier Theatre, National Theatre. (Helen McCrory as Rose Trelawny, Ben Miles as Arthur Gower, Adam Kotz as Tom Wrench)[7]

An adaptation by Patrick Marber, directed by Joe Wright played at the Donmar Warehouse in 2013.

Film adaptation

In 1916 the play was adapted into a silent film Trelawny of the Wells directed by Cecil Hepworth and starring Alma Taylor, Stewart Rome and Violet Hopson. The play was adapted a second time in 1928 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as The Actress, directed by Sidney Franklin and starring Norma Shearer. There was also a 1938 adaptation directed by Tyrone Guthrie[8]


  1. ^ Bratton, xix
  2. ^ Chapman and Sherwood, 70
  3. ^ Bratton, xxiii
  4. ^ IBDB
  5. ^ "Production of Trelawny of the Wells | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  6. ^ "Production of Trelawny of the Wells | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  7. ^ "Production of Trelawny of the Wells | Theatricalia". Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  8. ^ IMDB listing for the 1938 film


  • Jacky Bratton, ed. Trelawny of the 'Wells' and Other Plays (Oxford, 1995)
  • John Chapman and Garrison P. Sherwood, eds., The Best Plays of 1894-1899 (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1955)
  • Internet Broadway Database (IBDB):
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