Wednesday, 29 April 2015

More Teenage Nights

The price of admission is twopence or fourpence ... we paid fourpence. On receiving our tickets we went into the lower part of the room, and the sight which then presented itself baffles description. The performance had commenced; and what with the "mouthings" of the performers, the vociferous shouts, the maledictions, and want of sufficient light, and the smoke from about one hundred tobacco pipes, the effect was quite bewildering for a few minutes. The room is of an oblong form, about 30 yards by 10, and capable of holding, with the galleries, from 800 to 1,000 persons. One end is fitted up as a stage. The bar, where the liquors are served out, is placed in the middle. The place between the bar and the stage is appropriated to juveniles, or boys and girls from ten to fourteen years of age. Of them there were not less than one hundred; they were by far the noisiest portion of the audience, and many of the boys were drinking and smoking. The compartment behind the bar appears to be fitted up for the "respectables", the seats being more commodious. Leaving this lower part of the room ,we had to proceed up a dark staircase (some parts being almost impassable owing to the crowd of boys and girls), to the lower gallery which extends round three parts of the room. This gallery was occupied by the young of both sexes, from fourteen years and upwards. To reach the top gallery, we have to mount some more crazy stairs. This gallery is composed of two short side sittings and four boxes in the front. The occupants of these boxes are totally secluded from the eyes of the audience. They were occupied by boys and girls. From this gallery we had a good view of all that was passing in the room. There could not be less than 700 individuals present, and about one seventh of them females. The pieces performed encourage resistance to parental control, and were full of gross innuendoes, "double entendres", heavy cursing, emphatic swearing, and incitement to illicit passion. Three fourths of the songs were wanton and immoral, and were accompanied by immodest gestures. 

The last piece performed was the "Spare Bed" and we gathered from the conversation around that this was looked for with eager expectation. We will not attempt to describe the whole of this abominable piece; suffice it to say that the part which appeared most pleasing to the audience was when one of the male performers took off his coat and waistcoat, unbuttoned his braces, and commenced unbuttoning the waistband of his trowsers, casting mock-modest glances around him; finally he took his trowsers off and got into bed. Tremendous applause followed this act. As the many lay in bed the clothes were pulled off; he was then rolled out of bed and across the stage, his shirt being up to the middle of his back. After this he walked up and down the stage, and now the applause reached its climax - loud laughter, shouting, clapping of hands, by both males and females, testified the delight they took in this odious exhibition. This piece terminated about eleven o'clock and many then went away. It is necessary to state that the man had on a flesh-coloured pair of drawers, but they were put on so that the audience might be deceived, and some were deceived. It needs little stretch of the imagination to form an opinion what the conduct of these young people would be on leaving this place - excited by the drink which they had imbibed - their witnessing this vile performance - their uncontrolled conversation ... It is the manufactory and rendezvous of thieves and prostitutes ...

Preston Guardian, 25 January 1851

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