John Rich - Encyclopedia

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JOHN RICH (1692-1761), English actor, the "father of English pantomime," was the son of Christopher Rich (d. 1714), the manager of Drury Lane, with whose quarrels and tyrannies Colley Cibber's Apology is much occupied. John Rich opened the new theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields left unfinished by his father, and here, in 1716, under the stage name of Lun, he first appeared as Harlequin in an unnamed entertainment which developed into an annual pantomine (q.v.). By this departure he made successful headway in his competition with the stronger company at Drury Lane, including Cibber, Wilks and Booth. Rich was less happy in his management of Covent Garden, which he opened in 1733, until Garrick's arrival (1746), when a most prosperous season ensued, followed by a bad one when Garrick went to Dury Lane. During Rich's management occurred the rival performances of Romeo and Juliet - Barry and Mrs Cibber at Covent Garden, and Garrick and Miss Bellamy at Dury Lane - and the subsequent competition between the two rival actors in King Lear. Rich died on the 26th of November 1761. Garrick's lines show that his acting was pantomime pure and simple, without words: "When Lun appeared, with matchless art and whim, He gave the power of speech to every limb: Tho' masked and mute, conveyed his quick intent, And told in frolic gesture what he meant."

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