McGonagall as Macbeth

Uproarious Scene

The oft-repeated saying, ‘*A prophet hath no honour in his own country,” was never more aptly illustrated than was shown in the reception given last night to the “Great McGonagall” by the baser sort of Dundee citizens. The “City Poet,” as he now styles himself, has been coming out of late as a caterer for public amusement. McGonagall is a man of versatile talents. Not only can he write “pottery” by the square yard, but he contains within his vigorous composition the elements of a great tragedian. If he got “a fair field and no favour” Henry Irving would have to look well to his laurels. Appreciating the “Poet’s” gifts and powers, the manager of the Circus entered into an engagement with Mac for the mutual benefit of both and the delectation of the public at large. It was not the first time the “Poet” had appeared before a circus audience, but on the previous occasions he laboured under several drawbacks. No place could be found for him but the ring, and to do a “stage walk” on a floor of sawdust and tan bark was a feat never attempted by any hero of the “sock and buskin.” Every heroic stride he took he sank to the ankles, and to add to his discomfort the audience looked down on him from all sides. But things were on a better footing last night. The circus had been converted into a theatre of varieties; there was a stage and footlights, and although sidewings and scenery were awanting, he could at last tread the boards like another Garrick. The house was full of expectant patrons, but the manager kept the “Poet” in reserve – the last and the best thing on the programme. About half-time the stage manager appeared before the footlights, and informed the audience that one of the company had met with a serious accident that afternoon, but to make up for his absence McGonagall would appear in a scene in “Macbeth.” The “Poet” would show how the dramatic works of the Bard of Avon should be rendered, and he would go into competition with Henry Irving, and beat him too. The manager craved a good hearing for McGonagall, and expressed the hope that whatever “presents” they might shower on the hero they would look out for the scenery. This announcement was greeted with cheers. The “gods” were under the misapprehension that “Mac” was about to come on, but it was not so to be just then, and the next performer, who came out on a skipping rope, was coolly told to “go to bed.” It was fully ten o’clock before the “Poet’s” number was hung up. The orchestra gave a grand flourish of drums and trumpets, a fiddler played “Auld Langsyne,” and the audience yelled and whistled as if they had all gone mad. All were on the tiptoe of expectation, when the curtain at the back was gracefully raised, and out stepped the “star” of the evening, “all plaided and plumed in his tartan array.” The “part” selected was the second scene in the fifth act, where Macbeth enters reading reports from the army. Majestically McGonagall strode down to the footlights with a bit of paper in his hand which he was supposed to be reading, but the tremendous ovation with which he was greeted fairly drowned his voice. Suiting the action to the word, and the word to the action, he tore the paper in his rage and threw it bit by bit over his shoulder. The audience taking this as a signal began to shower “favours” on him right and left. Thick and fast the “gifts” fell around and about him bouquets of vegetables, bags of soot and flour, and a ham bone, a veritable meat offering, crashed on the boards. A liquid bombshell hit him on the eye, and burst its nauseous liquid on his face. This was the unkindest cut of all, it was too much for the tragedian, and sans ceremonie he turned tail and bolted. Yells, whistling, laughter, and stamping of feet, rang through tbe house for the next five minutes. “Give the man a chance,” “It’s no fair,” “Shame,” and similar expressions of disapprobation were heard above the tremendous uproar. The noise at last subsided a little, and to the delight of all McGonagall re-entered, this time armed with a great gleaming claymore. Flourishing the “cheese-toaster” in a warlike manner he raised his voice to the utmost pitch, and cried — “’Twas on the field of Bannockburn.” But that was all that could be heard. The eggs and bacon, flour, kail, tatties, and meat offerings again rained abundantly till the stage was littered like a dung heap. In the midst of the ovation McGonagall rushed off the stage and was seen no more. His appearance was of short duration. He had faced the audience bravely more than three minutes altogether, when he was forced to flee. This is all the more to be regretted, considering that the “Poet” had put himself to some labour and expense in re-arranging his wardrobe, lengthening his kilt, and trimming his feathers the better to get up the part.

Dundee Courier, 31st January 1889

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