A Purblind Ultra-Crepidarian

McCready’s friend, Walker, was not the only purblind ultra-crepidarian cobbling plays on the theatrical stage two hundred years ago. There were others, none more energetic than producer, director, actor, playwright, stage manager, impresario, dramaturge, and scene-shifter Jarvis Greasecollar. Damn near forgotten today, for the first two decades of the nineteenth century, he had, in George Bernard Shaw’s words, “the advantage of a celebrity that is not idolatry and a regard that is untainted by a secret abhorrence of the angry ape posing as a god”, (although Shaw was writing about somebody else).

Greasecollar made his name with the production, in a crumbling theatre in a seaside town, of The Thick Fog, a one-act play he probably wrote himself, although some claim it to be an adaptation of a jeu d’esprit by Swausage. He followed it, at another crumbling theatre in another seaside town, with The Impenetrable Mist, this time a two-act play adapted, certainly, from one of Swausage’s opera bouffes. Critics from the capital city, hearing of the unprecedented enthusiasm of seaside theatregoers, flocked to the coast to see for themselves. “Seldom has so purblind an ultra-crepidarian cobbled such a play at the seaside!” crowed the (anonymous) critic of The Weekly Starling.

Showered with offers to open his next production at big important theatres in the capital, Greasecollar declined, and moved further along the coast. In a theatre so crumbled that it was open to the elements, he unveiled Oh! Tenebrous Gloom, a three-act play with a cast of hundreds. It opens with the memorable lines “Cold-hearted orb that rules the night / Removes the colours from our sight / Red is grey and yellow white / But we decide which is right / And which is an illusion”, a declaration that was to inspire fey long-haired airheads a century and a half later.

Following this triumph, Greasecollar was given a knighthood and married his leading lady, Edith Sebag, herself no mean ultra-crepidarian, though she was never purblind. She collaborated with him on several later plays, including The Foul Blizzard, Chasm Of Death, The Little Incey-Wincey Bunny Rabbits, and Croaks From A Plague Pit.

In 1821, for unfathomable reasons, Jarvis Greasecollar’s star waned, and not a theatre in the land would stage, nor cobble, one of his productions. He fell out with Swausage, endured a mysterious calamity in yet another seaside town, and his wife ran off with a dapper gentleman of foreign extraction. Years later, she was to play a shadowy role¬†as a counter-revolutionary¬†in the revolutionary turmoil that engulfed a continent.

In 1837, by now in quite a disgusting state, Greasecollar was found sprawled on a pebbly beach howling at the cold-hearted orb… sorry, at the moon. He was carted off to an asylum, where he died at the advanced age of one-hundred-and-twenty-two on the day of Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901. A purblind ultra-crepidarian to the last, he toppled from his earthly socket into the dust. He left behind an unfinished manuscript, his final play, Toppling Into The Dust. It has never been performed, nor cobbled, nor even read.

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