Silk programme produced for the Theatre Royal, Manchester, 12 March 1856, for a benefit performance for the clowns W.H. and Henry Payne, opening with Plot and Passion followed by The Merry Millers! or The Night's Adventures and concluding with St George and the Dragon. Printed by Becks and Company, Manchester, 1856.
Silk playbills were often produced in the 19th century to commemorate special evenings in the theatre such as royal visits or the 100th performance of a play. This one, produced for an evening at the Manchester Theatre Royal in March 1856 was for the benefit of W. H. Payne and his son, Henry (or Harry) Payne. A benefit night was when performers took a percentage of the profits, having paid the theatre for its use and other expenses, and having organised the ticket sales themselves. It shows that father and son took part in the drama Plot and Passion, the so-called 'ballet d'action' The Merry Millers in which W. H. Payne performed a comic dance, and in the Harlequinade of the new pantomime St George & The Dragon.
The Payne family was one of several 19th century pantomime dynasties. W. H. Payne was a master of 'dumb show' or comic mime, and is credited as having invented much of the action of the part of a pantomime known as the Harlequinade. Known as 'the King of Pantomime', he appeared at Covent Garden in the 1820s with Grimaldi and the great Harlequin, Bologna. His son, Harry Payne, began his career playing Harlequin at Covent Garden but in 1859 had to take over as Clown in the middle of a performance when Richard Flexmore collapsed. After this, Payne became Covent Garden's regular Clown, a role he played until 1870. After appearing elsewhere, he went to Drury Lane in 1883, where he played Clown for the last twelve years of his life, with his brother Fred as Harlequin.
Cream silk playbill with silk fringe printed in black ink for the Theatre Royal Manchester, 12 March 1856, a benefit night for W.H. and Henry Payne, opening with the new drama Plot and Passion featuring W.H. Payne as Monsieur Desmarets, followed by the ballet d'action The Merry Millers! with Henry Payne as Grist, W.H. Payne as Chaff, and F. Payne as Henri, and concluding with the pantomime St George and the Dragon with W.H. Payne as St George, and F. Payne as St Andrew.