Cape Town Dramatic Club
The Cape Town Dramatic Club was an amateur society active in Cape Town in the 1850s.
The club was the source of the spin-off society, the Alfred Dramatic Club (later Royal Alfred Dramatic Club), founded by dissident members in 1860. The remaining members continued as the Cape Town Dramatic Club for another season, after which they performed with the new company under a joint name as the Cape Town and Royal Alfred Dramatic Club.
The Cape Town Dramatic Club (originally founded as the Cape Town Theatrical Club) was a male-only amateur dramatic society founded at Mr Welch's residence in Buitekant Street, in the Cape Town in 1857 or 1858 by or under the auspices of Senator R.W. Murray, who was the first President of the club. The club had rooms in Darling Street and, by arrangement with Sefton Parry, made use of the Harrington Street Theatre for their theatrical activities, which included melodrama, comedy, burlesque and farce, as well as well as ballet (performed by Mr Aldridge and Mr Westropp).
According to separate lists provided by Murray and Groom (see Bosman, 1980: pp. 142-3), members over time included William Groom (director, stage manager, designer, etc for the club) William Sherman, John Ross Jnr, Mr Aldridge, Mr Westropp (secretary), G. Galt, George Prince, E. Christian, Mrs Hutchinson, Miss Hutchinson (later Mrs. Wood), Mrs Maston, Mrs Forrester, Miss Wilters, James Ansdell, J. Rowe, Mr Hawthorne, Dr Pitt, Dr Palgrave, I.R. Taylor, Mr Benjamin and Mrs Sefton Parry.
Several professional performers, besides Parry and his wife, worked with and/or appeared for the club on occasion; among them J.E.H. English, Charles Fraser and Clara Tellett. After his return to Cape Town in 1857, Sefton Parry also utilized the club members (as well as those from other local companies) to produce his own pantomime and other productions in the Drawing Room Theatre, which he had had constructed for his use, even though some acrimony apparently existed between Parry and the club members at various times. (See also Sefton Parry)
The first performance of the Club itself was on 11 May, 1858, and the full programme of their first period (May 1858 to April 1860) was:
The Harrington Theatre seasons
11 May: Still Waters Run Deep , accompanied by a "highland Fling" by an amateur and the one-act burlesque Medea, or The Best of Mothers, with a Brute of a Husband (Brough).
19 May: Repeat if the programme of 11 May.
29 July: They participate in a benefit performance for Sefton Parry and his wife.
22 March: The Evil Genius (Bernard) and The Lady of Lyons, or Two-penny Pride and Penny-Tence (Byron), with a performance of the brass band of the 59th Regiment.
6 October: As part of the Great Volunteers' Parade in Durbanville, the club, in association with other amateurs, presented the burlesque Frederick of Prussia, or The Monarch and the Mimic (Selby) and Whitebait at Greenwich (Morton).
From 5 November 1859 onwards, members of the club worked with Sefton Parry, so the only further performance by the "old" Club as such listed by Bosman (1980) is one on 29 March, 1860, when they did Helping Hands (Taylor) and Shylock, or The Merchant of Venice Preserved (a travesty by Talfourd).
The Cabinet Theatre season
The opposition to Parry came to a head in 1860,and Parry and a number of the members broke away to form an own company, the Alfred Dramatic Club, while the original club was reorganized by the remaining members, who continued as the Cape Town Dramatic Club for another season, starting in August, offering a series of performances in the old Cabinet Theatre, which they now renamed the C.T. Dramatic Club Theatre.
The season consisted of:
9 October: The Man of Many Friends (Coyne) and Two Heads are Better than One (Horne), with Railway Overture by the Corps of S.A. Minstrels and interlude of songs such as Lord Lovell etc. by a "lady from London". This performance took place in the Theatre Royal under the patronage of the Governor of the Cape.
12 November: A benefit for Miss Rowlands, who had at this point had announced her retirement from the stage, presented under the patronage and co-operation of the C.T.D.C.. Performed was Charles II, or The Wags of Wapping (Duval) and Betsy Baker (Morton). The cast of Charles II also included the professionals Sefton Parry and Charles Fraser and Mr Raymond in the accompanying piece.
18 February: Their farewell performance. Duchess or Nothing (Gordon), The Plagued Professor ("An Original Interlude expressly written for this occasion" by Cresswell, "characters by members of the Royal Alfred Club) and The Unfinished Gentleman (Selby)
The Theatre Royal season
After this they joined forces with the Royal Alfred Dramatic Club
The Alfred Dramatic Club (later the Royal Alfred Dramatic Club or R.A.C.)
The newly formed Alfred Dramatic Club soon had almost 40 members and worked largely as a semi-professional company, with Sefton Parry as manager and G.H. Galt as secretary. The new Club limited itself to popular programmes and performed in the new Theatre Royal which Parry had had built in Harrington Street, more or less alternately with Parry's more serious fare with his professional company.
Having attended the Club's first production (The Irish Tutor) on 15 September of 1860, the visiting Prince Alfred bestowed his name upon them, so henceforth the company was known as the Royal Alfred Dramatic Club (or at times the Royal Alfred Club (R.A.C.).
Among their more prominent members and performers, besides Sefton Parry and his professionals, were Mr St George, Mr Milton, Mr St Clair, Mr Kingston, Mr Murphy, Mr Cresswell, Mr H. Seymour and possibly Mr Chester. Women who appeared in the plays included Mrs Delmaine and Miss Delmaine.
Another important member appears to have been the celebrated traveler and painter Thomas Baines, who undertook much of the scene painting and was responsible for the amazing mechanical marvels introduced in performances.
Their performances under both names include:
22 August and 15 September: The Irish Tutor (Butler), songs and dances by Miss Lizzie Powell and The Maid and The Magpie, or The Fatal Spoon (Byron). Led by Sefton Parry, the performers in this case included the professionals Mrs Parry, Mrs Delmaine and Miss Powell and the amateur comedian Murphy.
In 1861 the amateur members of the Royal Alfred Dramatic Club rejoined forces with the Cape Town Dramatic Club on occasion - in such cases referred to as the Cape Town and Royal Alfred Dramatic Club - and undertook a few co-presentations in the Theatre Royal during the 1861-1862 season.
On 11 and 14 March: "Entertainment St George"
P.J. du Toit. 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica.
Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.
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