Artwork for the poster The Union Jack

Artwork for the poster The Union Jack

The Union Jack, a melodrama written by Henry Petitt and Sydney Grundy, and starring William Terriss. A portrait of Terriss is featured on the poster, drawn from life shortly before his assassination on 3 August 1893. Bruce Smith worked on The Union Jack at the Adelphi Theatre in 1888, before he moved to Drury Lane and got his nickname, 'Sensation' Smith. In this show he was already creating sets and effects with spectacular impact, including the Gun Deck of HMS Wellesley, Aldershot Camp, and Ethel's Boudoir. The Illustrated London News couldn't quite see how the title applied to the play, but admitted that it was 'both patriotic and nautical and the combination is attractive from the bill poster's point of view'. The eye-catching poster you see here proves the point. The reviewer also tried to summarise the plot, starting with the sailor hero, played by William Terriss: 'Jack Medway is arrested, tried by court martial, jumps overboard from his ship, is hunted by marines, accused of murder his sweetheart Ethel Arden is persecuted, locked up, wanders in the snow her sister Ivy is abducted', and so on ... The audience response to events was predictable - 'it was a treat to hear the hissing of the villains as they perpetrated audacity after audacity and came up smiling to be hissed again'.