Wybert REEVE

(Londres, 1831-Newport, 1906)

reeve wybert

Jean-Claude SEGUIN


Wybert Reeve ([1831]-Newport, 14/11/1906).


Les origines (1831-1895)

Dès son plus jeune âge, Wybert Reeve montre un goût pour la scène et il est toujours prêt à organiser quelques représentations amateurs chez ses amis :

[...] when between the ages of 11 and 12, I sought my theatrical amusements in a very daring manner without any one's permission. Sent to bed, like a good little boy, at 8 o'clock, I waited for a short time, listening for a fitting opportunity, then sneaked down a second staircase in the house, used only by the servants, ans quietly opening the front door made my way to some London theatre for an hour or two. It was in this manner I saw the great Macready, Miss Charlotte Cushman, the American actor Forrest, and others. Returning home I climbed the high area spiked railings, swung myself to the iron support, and dropped into the arms of the servant before spoken of, who was the only person in the house with a theatrical taste besides my own.
As years went on I managed to play in several amateur performances at the private houses of friends, much against the will of the family. I had a particular ambition to play 'Othello,' and on one occasion had succeeded in inducing a son of Sir Edwin Landseer and the daughters of Cooper, the Royal Academian, to join me in playing the third act. I successfully corked my face and bands, making them as black as a nigger; but the question was how to get the black off again, as I knew nothing about mixing the cork in a proper manner before putting it on so that it would come off easily. The Desdemona of the night certainly helped my hands to some extent, as my five fingers were prominently apparent afterwards, much to her annoyance, on her pretty white dress. It took me many hours to get a clean face again, and deprived me of the pleasure of joining in the dance which followed the performance.

Observer, Adelaide, samedi 24 novembre 1906, p. 41.

Il a environ 17 ans lorsqu'il s'engage dans le 3e Dragoon Guards à la caserne de Piershill. La vie dans un régiment de cavalerie n'est pas de tout repos: les gardes, les rondes, l'école d'équitation où il se rend tous les matins, les exercices d'escrime... ajoutées à cela, les conditions de vie, en hiver, dans la caserne, tout cela va le conduire à renoncer à sa vie de soldat et à 18 ans, il quitte son régiment et devient acteur. Wybert Reeve commence alors, en 1849, sa carrière dramatique. Il aurait commencé à Bradford (Yorkshire) où le directeur du théâtre accepte de le faire travailler pour juste une semaine à condition qu'il trouve lui-même ses costumes...:

My first engagement was at Bradford, in Yorkshire. The manager there had accepted my services at nothing a week and find my own wardrobe. An my arrival there I was staying at the principal hotel, were James Anderson, the tragedian, and Mrs. Warner were also staying. At night, smoking a cigar in the smoking room, he said, with a great deal of curiosity, 'Did I not see you on the stage this morning?' I replied, 'Yes' 'You certainly are never going to join the profession?' I told him that was my intention. He with the usual arguments endeavoured to dissuade me from it, but of ourse, without avail. I had studied 'Young Norval' and 'Hamlet,' as I was doubtful, in my own mind, which I should open in. The manager, however, decided my first appearance should be in Frederick, the walking gentleman in the comedy of 'The Wonder.' What with the glare of the foorlights and the strange surroundings. I forgot my words in the first scene, and made a miserable fiasco. In a fortnight's time I found myself reduced to the tailor in the comic scenes of the pantomime. This was more than the aspiring Young Norval' and 'Hamlet,' as I was doubtful, in my own mind, which I should open in. The manager, however, decided my first appearance should be in Frederick, the walking gentleman in the comedy of 'The Wonder.' What with the glare of the footlights and the strange surroundings. I forgot my words in the first scene, and made a miserable fiasco. In a fortnight's time I found myself reduced to the tailor in the comic scenes of the pantomime. This was more than the aspiring Young Norval and Hamlet could stand, so I indignantly took my departure, and found another manager at Whitehaven, in Cumberland, who accepted my services on the same liberal terms-nothing a week and find my own wardrobe.

Observer, Adelaide, samedi 24 novembre 1906, p. 41.

Peu après, il semble avoir incarné le rôle de Frederick dans The Wonder. Acteur, mais également auteur, en 1852, à Plymouth, il produit sa première pièce, une farce, intitulée An Australian Hoar. En 1855, il rejoint la "Bath and Bristol Company". Cette même année, il écrit et produit une farce Supper Gratis. En 1857, Reeve devient membre du Theatre Royal de ManchesterAprès près de cinq ans d'expérience en province, il décide de se lancer dans la direction théâtrale. Il commence à Cardiff, puis on le retrouve directeur à SwanseaRydeSheffieldSouth Shields et Scarborough, avant de s'installer au Théâtre d'Édimbourg pendant deux ans [1866-1868]. Il va produire ainsi de nombreuses pièces de théâtre : Pike O'CallaghanNot so Bad After AllThe Dragon of WantleyRobinson CrusoeLittler Red Riding Hood.. Il fait ses débuts à Londres sur la scène du Lyceum Theatre, en octobre 1869, dans le rôle de John Mildmay dans Still  Waters Run Deep. S'ensuivent d'autres pièces comme Won At LastThe Woman in white...

Wybert Reeve va alors poursuivre sa carrière à l'étranger. Il se rend au Canada, aux États-Unis... Engagé par George Coppin, il quitte Londres, à bord du Chimborazo, pour Adelaide  (Australie) où il arrive le 18 octobre 1878 et s'installe pour quelque temps dans le pays où il développe une part essentielle de ses activités artistiques :

Mr. Wybert Reeve made his first appeance in Australia on Saturday night, at the Theatre Royal. He played Count Fosco in Mr. Wilkie Collins' drama of "The Woman in White," a story which has the advantage of having been dramatised by the author himself, and which, therefore, may be supposed to present the principal points of interest in that very engrossing novel.

The Australasian, Melbourne, samedi 26 octobre 1878, p. 18.

Il va fréquenter la plupart des scènes australiennes et on le retrouve ainsi au Theatre Royal (Brisbane, août 1881), Hobart (janvier 1884)... En 1887, il fait équipe avec MM. Williamson, Garner et Musgrove afin de prendre la direction du Theatre Royal d'Adelaide.

Le Cinématographe (19 octobre-[5] novembre 1896)

Dès l'automne 1896, Wybert Reeve va présenter au Theatre Royal d'Adelaide un appareil cinématographique. Il est exploité par Frank St. Hill et Moodie :

One of the most marvellous developments of photography as a fine art is the kinetoscope, and an equally astonishing advancement upon that is the cinematograph, so far, perhaps, "the crowning achievement of man's genius," as it has been styled. On Monday afternoon Messrs. Frank St. Hill and Moodie gave an exhibition of the cinematograph in the Theatre Royal, under the direction of Mr. Wybert Reeve, in whose name the invitations were issued, and the spectators must have gained a fair idea of the wonderful capabilities of the invention, albeit the presentation was rather erratic and disappointing owing to the fact that too much light was let into the building, thereby causing the figures thrown upon the screen to appear fainter than they would have been under more satisfactory arrangements.

South Australian Register, Adelaide, mardi 20 octobre 1896, p. 6.

Une matinée est ainsi donnée au Theatre Royal le 19 octobre, mais avec un résultat assez peu satisfaisant, la salle n'étant pas prévue pour faire l'obscurité nécessaire aux projections :

Mr. Wybert Reeve having secured the cinematograph for exhibition in Adelaide gave a matinee performance at the Theatre Royal on Monday for the purpose of introducing it to the amusement-loving public. Unfortunately the difficulties attending the transformation of the theatre, which is the home of "sweetness and light," into a chamber of darkness, proved insurmountable, and as a consequence the projection of the animated pictures from the cinematograph on to the screen erected upon the stage proved somewhat disappointing.

The Express and Telegraph, Adelaide, mardi 20 octobre 1896,, p. 3. 

Fort heureusement, l'appareil est présenté le soir même dans le Beehive Building (King William-street) où les projections vont pouvoir se dérouler dans des conditions bien plus satisfaisantes :

The removal of the apparatus in the evening to its permanent lodgings in Beehive Buildings, King William-street, however, proved eminently satisfactory, and the exhibitions of its powers were attended with signal success.

The Express and Telegraph, Adelaide, mardi 20 octobre 1896, p. 3.

Les dernières séances du cinématographe prennent fin vers le 5 novembre, mais Wybert Reeve renouvelle les spectacles donnés au Theatre. Royal.

Le Cinématographe Lumière (26 décembre 1896-)

C'est au début du mois de décembre que Wybert Reeve est localisé à Melbourne alors qu'il est question qu'il récupère un cinématographe Lumière :

Mr. Wybert Reeve had not, up to the time of writing, returned from Melbourne. He will in all probability bring back with him the lumiere cinematograph and the best company of variety artists obtainable.

Quiz and the Lantern, Adelaide, jeudi 3 décembre 1896, p. 12.

Information confirmée par un autre journal local :

Mr. Wybert Reeve returned from Sydney and Melbourne by the French steamer Australien on Monday after being most successful in making arrangements for future attractions. He has secured from Messrs. Barnett and Sestier the use of the second Lumiere cinematograph, which is now on board the incoming French steamer. It will be one of the Christmas holiday attractions.

The Advertiser, Adelaide, mardi 8 décembre 1896, p. 5.

En réalité, il a bien passé un contrat pour pouvoir exploiter le cinématographe Lumière dans son établissement, mais l'opérateur reste Marius Sestier 




Mr. Wybert Reeve returned from Sydney and Melbourne by the French steamer Australien on Monday after being most successful in making arrangements for future attractions. He has secured from Messrs. Barnett and Sestier the use of the second Lumiere cinematograph, which is now on board the incoming French steamer. It will be one of the Christinas holiday attractions. The first Lumiere lately shown in "Djin-Djin" at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne, was first exhibited in a large shop in Pitt-street, Sydney. Its immense superiority over all others was so pronounced that it left a profit of over a thousand pounds to Mr. Williamson and his partners in about three weeks, although the charge made for admission was only one shilling. All those who visited Melbourne during the Cup week will have seen the wonder and admiration it created when shown there. The new instrument is precisely the same as the one now in use and crowding the Criterion Theatre, Sydney, where it has returned. The pictures and subjects to the number of 80 will be the same, as they will be exchanged between the two theatres, Sydney and Adelaide, as may be deemed expedient. They will include the 16 original ones so successfully taken by Mssrs. Barnett and Sestier, of the Derby Day, and the Melbourne Cup. With the cinematograph evening exhibition Mr. Keeve has arranged with Mr. Rickards for the services of certainly the best conjuror and most extraordinary illusionist, Karl Hertz. His marvellous entertainment will be remembered as crowding our Theatre Royal some six years ago, when he visited Australia under engagement to Mr. Musgrove. Another attraction will follow a little later on in the famous Vaidis sisters, the most marvellous and novel trapeze performers in the world. They crowded the Opera House, Melbourne for weeks, and are now crowding the Tivoli, Sydney, in the same way. It was Mr. Rickards’s intention to have arranged with Mr. Reeve for the Frantz family, but unfortunately they have to leave at once for Europe. A change of attraction will be made in the revisit of Mr. Dampier and his company, who will introduce several new plays, besides a revised edition of Garnet Walch's "Robbery Under Arms." The Pollards will play a season of opera, not as juveniles, but as adult singers and most successful opera performers. Amongst the operas produced will be "Rip Van Winkle." Mr. Reeve has also arranged with Mr. Robert Brough for a comedy season, when all the new and most attractive pieces in the company's repertoire will be played. The theatregoers' of Adelaide will also be pleased to hear there is every probability of their old friend Mr. Bland Holt and his strong dramatic company appearing early in the year, Mr. Holt having expressed his strong desire to fit in his arrangements so as to meet Mr. Reeve’s wishes; should he do so with his many new and strong pieces there is little doubt after so long an interval of a most successful season. Negotiations are pending with other important attractions, including several under the management of Messrs. Williamson and Musgrove, so that a very busy and more than usually brilliant theatrical year may be looked forward to. The Advertiser, Adelaide, mardi 8 décembre 1896, p. 5.


Il est "Lessee and Manager (locataire et gestionnaire) du Theatre Royal d'Adelaide où il présente le cinématographe. 

présente le cinématographe Lumière en Australie et en Nouvelle-Zélande (1897).

Mr. Wybert Reeve has purchased Lumiere's Cinematographe the very fine and beautiful exhibition of M. Marius Sestier, with whom he has hitherto been in partnership, M. Sestier returning to Europe. He has taken over fifty of the finest pictures, including new ones of royal and military pageants lately received from Paris. It will be exhibited in Moonta, Port Pirie, Kadina, Wallaroo, Port Augusta, and Broken Hill, where it was enthusiastically received on its previous visit, and in other towns that will be announced in future advertisements. It will undoubtedly be warmly welcomed everywhere, as one of the most refined and instructive entertainments of the age, to say nothing of its marvellous merits as an invention that ranks with the foremost of the century. The Ballarat pipers wore very enthusiastic in their praise during Mr, Reeves's season there. In South Australia Mr. Reeve has had no cause to regret his enterprise in introducing the Cinematographe, for every town in which he has shown it has fully appreciated its marvels, and undoubtedly will gladly do so again.
Adelaide Observer, Adelaide, samedi 8 mai 1897, p. 46.

Et après... (1898-1906)

reeve wybert portait 02
Adelaide Observer, Adelaide, samedi 29 septembre 1900, p. 16.

Il décède en novembre 1906. Peu après la presse australienne publie sa nécrologie :

Wybert Reeve, once so well known as an actor and manager in Sydney and elsewhere in this country, has died in England. He was pretty well advanced in life, though not as old as some of the veterans who have continued to wear theatrical harness. He doffed his some years ago. His latest and longest direct connection with theatrical affairs in Australia was his management of the Adelaide Theatre. He will be remembered here as at the head of his own company at the Gaiety Theatre, and subsequently at the Opera House. One of his favourite impersonations was Count Fosco in the dramatisation of Wilkie Collins's "Woman in White," a performance which was understood to have been much admired by Collins himself. Wilkins Micawber, in a version of Dickens's "David Copperfield," was another of the "character" assumptions in which Wybert Reeve was effective. During his visits to Sydney he was identified with the production or revival of a number of comedy dramas, in most of which his own talent was prominently displayed. He had the advantage on each of these occasions of being supported by very well selected companies. Apart from his profession Wybert Reeve was an interesting man. He was naturally intelligent, and had received a good education. He was full of interesting reminiscences of notable men and women whom he had met with in the course of his stage career. His experiences covered the United States as well as Australia. Previously they had extended over many years in the United Kingdom wherever there was room for the drama to flourish.

The Australian Star, Sydney, mardi 20 novembre 1906, p. 4.

reeve wybert portrait 03
The Late Mr. Wybert Reeve
The well known Actor-manager
Observer, Adelaide, samedi 24 novembre 1906, p. 29.


"Death of Mr. Wybert Reeve", The Observer, Adelaide, samedi 24 novembre 1906, p. 41.

REEVE Wybert, From Life, Londres, F. V. White & Co., 1892, 248 p.



19/10/1896 Australie Adelaide Theatre Royal Cinematograph
19/10-[05]/11/1896 Australie Adelaide Beehive Building Cinématographe
26/12/1896 Australie Adelaide Theatre Royal Cinématographe Lumière
16-20 et 22/02/1897 Australie Broken Hill Town Hall Cinématographe Lumière
05/1897 Australie Broken Hill Town Hall Cinématographe
28/05/1898 Australie Broken Hill Crystal Theatre Cinématographe
31/03/1899 Australie Hallett Township Cinématograph