Irish entrepreneur and marionette (string puppet) showman. Randal Stretch probably belonged to a Dublin or Limerick family. He had a puppet show in Dublin by 1720 but certain similarities suggest that he may have been associated with Martin Powell’s show in London prior to that. He occupied a wooden booth in Dublin’s Dame Street and had problems with the Theatre Royal which attempted to use its monopoly status to have this unwelcome competition closed down. In 1736, he crossed the river to Capel Street where he converted a meeting house into a theatre with a pit, boxes and a gallery.
The repertoire was typical of marionette theatres of the time and included historical pieces with kings and queens, Saint George and the Dragon and a Dr Faust. Two contemporary authors, Charles Coffey and William Dunkin, also wrote plays for Stretch. Punch was the central figure and a swazzle was used for his voice. Stretch as the showman occupied a box at the side of the stage from where he commented on the action and acted as an intermediary between the puppets and the audience. The few details about Randal Stretch include a record of his marriage and the death of his two children in infancy.
After his death, the theatre continued as a marionette theatre until 1770 with occasional other shows including wild animals.
- Speaight, George. The History of the English Puppet Theatre. London: George Harrap, 1955; Illinois: Robert Hale/South Illinois University Press, 1990.