BANDITS! OR THE COLLAPSING BRIDGE by David Mayer with Bryony Dixon


Bandits! or The Collapsing Bridge centres on the earliest surviving motion picture filmed in a British theatre. Brief but amazingly eventful, it records the conclusion of The Bandits, a London Hippodrome sketch performed in 1902: soldiers give chase on horseback; a bandit queen fires a pistol; a mill explodes into flame; a bridge collapses in the millrush; a carriage and horses plunge into the millpond. All this – and more – can be seen in 89 seconds! The film clip was made early in a decade of melodramatic sketches that were given sensational presentation at the London Hippodrome between 1900 and 1909. The Hippodrome was then a major London variety theatre, and sketches like The Bandits were literally showstoppers, designed to bring the twice-daily bill to a spectacular conclusion as scenery collapsed, water cascaded, and animals cavorted.

This amply illustrated booklet offers an authoritative account of the Hippodrome sketches with their spectacular effects and stage machinery. It also presents a lightly edited performance text of The Sands O’Dee, the only Hippodrome sketch for which a script is known to survive. The CD accompanying the booklet contains both the film-clip of The Bandits and also digital reproductions, easily enlargeable, of the illustrations that are printed in the booklet.


David Mayer is Emeritus Professor of Drama in the University of Manchester.
Bryony Dixon is Curator of Silent Film at the British Film Institute.
Neville Hunnings is Vice-President of the Society for Theatre Research.


The Society for Theatre Research, founded in 1948, brings together those interested in the history and technique of the British theatre and it encourages research into these subjects. Members of the society receive the Society’s illustrated journal, Theatre Notebook, as well as (at least) one book annually. Lectures, which are held in London, are open to the public, as are annual competitions for the Theatre Book Prize and the New Scholars’ Prize. The Society also makes substantial research awards. New members are welcome.

Details of subscription rates, lecture programme and other current activities, backlist of past publications, information about awards and prizes appear on the Society’s website at  or may be obtained by writing to: The Society for Theatre Research, c/o The Theatres Trust, 22 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H OQL


Bandits! or The Collapsing Bridge by David Mayer with Bryony Dixon with a foreword by Neville Hunnings

Published by The Society for Theatre Research  2015

84 pp plus CD

ISBN 978 0 85430 080