D'Arcy Read Theatrical Company

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The D'Arcy Read Theatrical Company was a musical company set up by D'Arcy Read and his wife Elsie Sydney (billed as Mrs D'Arcy Read) in the 1860s and 1870s.

Also found as the D'Arcy Read Company and D'Arcy-Read Company.

The two principals originally came to South Africa in 1868 with the Le Roy and Duret Company, having been recruited in England by J.H. le Roy, performing in the Theatre Royal in Cape Town.

When the theatre burnt down in 1868, the Reads lost most of their wardrobe, which had been stored there, and the Le Roy and Duret Company ceased its performances shortly after. The Reads then joined forces with James Leffler and his wife, to tour the principal towns of the Cape Colony as the Read-Leffler Company, going as far as Colesberg by ox-wagon. There the Reads and Lefflers parted company, Leffler returning to Cape Town in 1869.

What now appears to have become the D'Arcy Read Theatrical Company apparently continued its tour of the towns, returning to Cape Town in 1871, where they offered popular musical style entertainment in various venues (e.g. the Mutual Hall, the Company Gardens, the Garrison Theatre and Young Men's Institute) for a reasonably successful season extending from 9 November 1871 till 17 February 1872. Bosman (1980: p.250) suggests that they were possibly the only performers in the company at this time, no others being mentioned in the sources, and the plays performed thus normally of the "duologue" kind.

Plays and sketches done in this season include The Ring and the Keeper (Wooler), The Cousins (Knowles), Belgravia, or Servantgolism (Anon.), A Comical Countess (Brough) and A Race for a Wife (Cooper). The performances also included a range of other items, such as comic and Negro songs, and magic shows (e.g. "D'Arcy Read's Ghost Illusions").


D.C. Boonzaier, 1980. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 201-2, 230-254, 292-299, 319.

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