This photo is signed Marie Levison and is of the relative of a friend. Information is hard to come by and it seems Marie may have been the person in the family that no one talked about. Was she considered beyond the pale for embracing the theatrical life? We don’t know but would love to find out. The photo shows her as Dandini in the pantomime Cinderella at the Theatre Royal, Cardiff in January 1888. Marie Levison was not her real name, which could have been Kate Lee, and she changed her name again to Kate Toole in October 1888. It wasn’t unusual for performers to change their names if they took on a new act or hoped to leave an unsuccessful career behind, but why did she do it?
We know that Marie Levison had been with the D’Oyley Carte Company for some years and then switched to music hall. We don’t know why she did this. As Kate Toole she appeared on various bills and seems to have been well received although never appearing as the star turn. She was represented by Hugh J Didcott who was one of the leading agents of the time. Didcott had a dispute with the leading music halls which he lost and many of the music hall stars left his agency which meant he was left with the less popular artistes. When did he represent Kate? Did she stay with him? We don’t know the date of her birth but sadly we know how she died. The Brighton Gazette reported in March 1903 that Kate Toole was found dead in bed by her landlady. The cause of death was given as alcohol poisoning.
If anyone has any more information on Marie/Kate it would be wonderful if you could share it and I’ll pass it on to the friend with the mysterious relative.
Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive and the British Music Hall Society.