Disney Roebuck

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Disney Roebuck (usually referred to as Captain Disney Roebuck, 1819-1885) was a British actor-manager who had a great influence on theatre in South Africa.


Born Francis Algernon Disney, he originally followed a military career, becoming a Captain in the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers. During these years he was active in garrison theatre. He initially performed and toured in England as an amateur, but eventually became a professional actor-manager. After an initial tour to South Africa in 1873, with a company formally known as the United Service Dramatic Company, he would regularly take companies on tour to Australia and South Africa, often with a extensive repertoire that included a number of his standard roles, including many Shakespearean works, till his last production in Cape Town on 7 August, 1882.

He arrived in Cape Town with his theatre company in 1873 and toured with a production of Robertson's David Garrick (1873). In 1875 the company travelled inland, one tour to Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown and King William's Town, the other to Kimberley. He also performed in Durban e.g. Hamlet in 1876). The first company included, besides Roebuck himself, Fanny Enson, E. Palmer, John Brougham, Bessie Cranston and Seymour Dallas. He on occasion also made use of local amateurs or professionals. In 1876 he returned with an augmented company which also included Maggie Duggan,William Elton, W. Foulis, Henry Harper, Mrs Harper, James Leffler, Georgina Robertson, Hilda Temple, W. Thorne (scenic artist) and Sutton Vane.

In Cape Town he leased and ran various theatres between 1873 and 1883/4, renaming some for his purposes. Among the venues used were the Mutual Hall, the Oddfellows Hall, the Bijou Theatre, the Athenaeum Hall, the Good Hope Gardens and especially the Theatre Royal. This latter theatre burnt down in 1884 and Roebuck returned to London while it was being rebuilt, returning to re-occupy it in 1885, but unfortunately died in Sea Point, Cape Town in 22nd March 1885.


Among his other major productions in South Africa were Caste (1874) The Octoroon (1876), Hamlet (1876), Pygmalion and Galatea (1876), Othello (1877), Our Boys (1877), ** . **


Jill Fletcher 1994

Stopforth 1955, pp96-7




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: pp.

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