The Frozen Deep was first performed at Tavistock House at a dress rehearsal on 5 January 1857 for an informal audience of servants and tradespeople. Semi-public performances followed on 6, 8, 12 and 14 January for audiences of about 90 at each, including numerous friends of Dickens and Collins, among them members of Parliament, judges, and ministers. Following the death of Jerrold, Dickens planned benefit performances for the support of his widow and children. The first of these, on 4 July, was a command performance at the Royal Gallery of Illustration for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their family; among the other guests were King Leopold I of Belgium, Prince Frederick William of Prussia, and his fiancée Princess Victoria, along with literary lights William Thackeray and Hans Christian Andersen. Victoria praised the performance, especially Dickens’s acting, in her diary.
Additional performances at the same venue were given on 11, 18 and 25 July. When Dickens realised that, despite expensive ticket prices, insufficient funds had been raised to sustain Mrs. Jerrold, he arranged for a series of much larger public performances at the Manchester Free Trade Hall. It was for these that Dickens, convinced that his amateur actresses, including his daughters Kate and Mary Dickens, would not be able to project in such a large venue, replaced them with professionals, among them Ellen Ternan. These performances, given on 21, 22 and 24 August were attended by thousands, and earned Dickens and the cast unusually effusive reviews. To Miss Coutts, Dickens wrote of his pleasure at being able to effect “the crying of two thousand people”, including the stage-hands, carpenters, and even the cast, with his final death scene in the role of Wardour.