1. The original production opened in 1901, and soon after, the world went wild for the play
It opened on Broadway, where it ran for 64 performances, before being produced in London where it ran for an astonishing 459 shows. The play was still gaining popularity in 1936, when it caught the attention of a small toffee-maker in Halifax, Harold Mackintosh (son of John Mackintosh), who loved the play so much that he renamed their chocolate-toffee hybrids after it (they were previously sold as ‘Mackintosh’s Celebrated Toffee’).
(Photo by The Library Time Machine)
2. Recognise the characters on the tin?
The characters on the tins and packaging of Quality Street chocolates, ‘Major Quality and Miss Sweetly’ are actually modelled after the characters in the play, Phoebe Throssel and Valentine Brown (in our production, played by Jessica Baglow and Dario Coates). Quality Street chocolates are still made in Halifax to this day, and the two characters still appear on the packaging of all boxes and tins!
3. Big up Violet Mackintosh
Although John Mackintosh was officially crowned ‘the Toffee King’ and was hailed for his genius toffee-making talent, it was actually his wife, Violet Mackintosh, who developed the original recipe for the chocolates, which for the first time, blended traditional, English butterscotch with soft, gooey American caramel. Go Violet! We love to see it.
(Photo from toffeetown.org.uk)
4. So what’s the play about?
The play is a regency rom-com set in a Northern town, on Quality Street. The glamorous Phoebe Throssel and the charming Valentine Brown are the talk of the town; any day now, Valentine will fall down on one knee and ask for her hand in marriage, surely? Nuh-uh. Instead of presenting a ring, he announces that he is going off to fight in the Napoleonic war and disappears for ten years. Nice one!
Upon his return, Captain Valentine Brown finds that Phoebe is now a bedraggled school teacher, who has ‘lost her looks’ and is struggling to keep control of the chaotic children (in our production, they are played by puppets). Phoebe decides to create an alter-ego, Miss Livvy, who soon entraps the clueless Captain. A hilarious farce soon ensues. Will Valentine discover Phoebe’s secret?
5. Our version will be co-created with the factory workers at Quality Street, Halifax
Our play will also feature a Goggle Box style commentary from the Quality Street factory workers of Halifax, which will give the play a surprising Northern twist. They will tell their own stories of hapless love and romance as the events of the play unfold. Our cast begin working with the Factory in early January, so stay tuned here and on our social media to keep up with the development of the show!