John Laurence Toole

(1830—1906) actor and theatre manager

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(1830–1906), English actor and theatre manager, who was for a short time, like Garrick, clerk to a wine merchant. Success in amateur theatricals turned his thoughts to the stage, and he made his first appearance as a professional in Dublin in 1852. After further experience in the English provinces he established himself in London in 1856 as a low comedian, playing Fanfaronade in Charles Webb's Belphegor the Mountebank, in which Marie Wilton, later the wife of Squire Bancroft, also made her London début. In 1857 Toole was with Henry Irving, who remained a lifelong friend, and a year later, on the recommendation of Dickens, another close friend, was engaged by Ben Webster for the Adelphi Theatre, where he remained for nine years. Among his best parts were two of Dickens's characters—Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol (1859) and Caleb Plummer in Dot (1862), a dramatization of The Cricket on the Hearth by Boucicault. In this latter part Toole combined humour with pathos in a way which showed how well he might have played serious parts; but the public preferred him in farce, and in 1869 he began a five-year association with Hollingshead at the Gaiety Theatre, where he proved admirable in burlesque. He made an appearance in New York, in 1874, but his humour was too cockneyfied for the Americans, and he never returned there. In 1879 he went into management at the Charing Cross Theatre, opened in 1869, to which he gave his own name three years later. His most important productions there were Pinero's early comedy Imprudence (1881) and Barrie's first play Walker, London (1892). He retired in 1895, and the theatre closed, being demolished the next year.

From The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Theatre.

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