The Silver King

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The Silver King is a melodrama by Henry Arthur Jones (1851-1929)[1] and Henry Herman (1832-1894)[2].

The original text

A celebrated play from the late 19th century, which William Archer believed it to be "quite the best of modern English melodramas." The play was popular for more than 40 years, and had numerous performances all over Europe, America, South Africa, India and Australia.

First performed in London at the Princess's Theatre, on November 16, 1882 and in New York at Wallack's Theatre on 27 January, 1883.

Translations and adaptations

The play was adapted and filmed twice, first as a 1919 silent film directed by George Irving and starring stage star William Faversham (the film now lost)[3] and second as a 1929 British silent film directed by T. Hayes Hunter and starring Percy Marmont, Harold Huth and Chili Bouchier.[4]

The stage text translated into Afrikaans as Die Silwer Koning in 1931.

Performance history in South Africa

The text had originally been brought to South Africa by Henry Harper when he first came to South Africa and throughout his period as lessee of the Theatre Royal he did all he could to produce it in Cape Town, but could not assemble such a large cast locally and finally gave up on it, considering the piece to be beyond the resources of his management.

1885: Shortly after Harper had given up the theatre, the text was rediscovered by Sutton Vane and, recognising its value, he put it into production. It was first performed as The Silver King in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, now under the management of new lessees - H.C. Sidney and his partner H.J. Fiedler, opening on the 4th of May and running for almost four weeks. The cast, led by H.C. Sidney, also featured Alice Norton, Sutton Vane, Jacques du Toit, Herbert Harries, Robert Bolder, Henry Harper, Charles Wilstone, Constance Young, Emily Seyton, and Kate Leechman. The play was directed by Sutton Vane, who also designed and built the sets.

1886-7: Performed as part of a season of plays put on in the Theatre Royal in Burg Street by H.C. Sidney and Alice Norton, with the assistance of the Wheeler Company.

1891: Performed as part of a season of plays put on in the Vaudeville Theatre, Cape Town, by a newly founded scratch company. In this production, "Nellie Denver" was performed by Lilla Wilde.

1892: Performed in the Vaudeville Theatre, Cape Town, by the visiting Emilie Bevan Comedy Company as part of a three-and-a-half month season of 20 plays which began on 8 August.

1900: Performed by the Herbert Flemming Company as part of an extended season in the Opera House, Cape Town.

1901: Performed in the Port Elizabeth Opera House by the Joseph Ashman Company in February , by arrangement with Leonard Rayne.

1902: Performed in the Good Hope Theatre, Cape Town, by the Wheeler Brothers as part of a short season of plays, featuring the British tragedian Wilson Barrett as their star turn.

1910: Produced by Leonard Rayne and his company, as part of their repertoire of six plays, opening at the Standard Theatre, Johannesburg, and then touring the various cities, including a performances at the Opera House, Cape Town, in April. The cast featured P.A. Gawthorn as "Wilfred Denver".

1931: Performed in Afrikaans as Die Silwer Koning by the Hanekom-Van Zyl Geselskap while on tour, partly under the auspices of African Theatres. Besides the normal cast of Hendrik Hanekom, Mathilde Hanekom, Wena Naudé and Willem van Zyl, it introduced a child star, Sylvia Robertson, and Jac. J. du Toit to the South African public.


Facsimile version of Samuel French's 1907 edition of the text, The Internet Archive[5]

The Daily Advertiser, February 5, 1901.

Barrett H. Clark. 1915. The British and American Drama of Today. New York: Henry Holt and Company: pp. 36-39, as cited in the Theatre Database website[6]

D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.378-383, 391, 394-5, 408, 411, 418, 433 and 438.

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