Fortune's Frolic

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Fortune's Frolic is a farce in two acts by John Till Allingham (fl. 1799–1810)[1].

Also known as Fortune's Frolic or, The Ploughman Turned Lord, or sometimes referred to as Robin Roughead.

The original text

Originally written as an afterpiece, possibly in one act originally, and first produced as Fortune's Frolic at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden on 25 May 1799, followed by a season at the Drury Lane Theatre, the play enjoyed popularity in England, the USA and the colonies, and the leading character "Robin Roughhead" was played by many celebrated actors.

First published in 1799 by N. Kelly, Dublin and by Thomas Hailes Lacy in London. Interestingly, Lacy's illustrated edition is entitled Fortune's Frolic: a farce, in one act[]. However all other editions have it as either "a farce", or later as "a farce in two acts", and they all appear to be the two act version.

The play is usually referred to, and from the first version most often published, simply as Fortune's Frolic. However the fuller title, Fortune's Frolic or, The Ploughman Turned Lord, does appear in various programmes and in later, undated, editions by J. Dicks, and Samuel French for example. The work is apparently also billed as Robin Roughead (after the leading character) in some instances.

The historian F.C.L. Bosman lists the play wrongly in his index and on pages 217 as Fortune's Frolic, or The Ploughman Made Lord in his 1928 publication, possibly citing the producer of the 1831 production, H. Booth, though elsewhere he has the name simply as Fortune's Frolic.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1815: Presented in English in the African Theatre, Cape Town on 22 July by a "Society of Amateurs", i.e. former members of Mr Cuerton's Company, as an afterpiece to The Mountaineers (Colman). (The plays announced in the Kaapsche Courant in Dutch as De Bergbewoonders and Fortuins Vrolykheid.) The evening is a benefit for Miss Delamore, whom Cuerton had apparently left penniless in Cape Town when he left.

1818: Presented in English in Cape Town on 30 May by the Gentlemen Amateurs in the African Theatre, with Sighs: Or, the Daughter (Von Kotzebue/Hoare) as afterpiece.

1822: Performed on 7 December in the African Theatre, Cape Town, by the Amateur Company (Garrison Players), with The Soldier's Daughter (Cherry) and Speed the Plough (Morton).

1831: Produced as Fortune's Frolic, or The Ploughman Made Lord by All the World's a Stage led by Mr Booth, on Monday 19 September in the Cape Town Theatre, with The Road to Ruin (Holcroft)

1833: Performed in Cape Town by All the World's a Stage in the Cape Town Theatre on 19 January, with Richard the Third (Shakespeare).

1838: It was apparently performed in Grahamstown in this year by the Grahamstown Amateur Company, performing under the motto Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense (Though there is some difference of opinion between F.C.L. Bosman and P.W. Laidler on whether it was not perhaps a performance in Cape Town - see Bosman, 1928: pp. 388-9).

1846: Performed in Cape Town (possibly by All the World's a Stage) in the newly renamed Hope Street Theatre, now called the Victoria Theatre, on Tuesday 21 July, as an interlude between Charles the Second, or The Merry Monarch (Payne) and A Day after the Fair (Somerset).

1846: Performed on Thursday 20 August, probably by All the World's a Stage, in the Victoria Theatre in Hoop Street, as interlude to Who's Who? or The Double Imposture (Poole) and The Village Lawyer (Macready?).

1848: Performed in Cape Town by the Garrison Theatrical Company on 26 September, with Tekeli, or The Siege of Montgatz (Hook)

1860: Performed on 18 June as Fortune's Frolic or, The Ploughman Turned Lord in the Cape Town Theatre by Sefton Parry and his company as part of a "Grand extra night for the benefit of Mr James Lawson". Also performed is Luke the Labourer (Buckstone), a comic dance by Signor Boscarra and a "Highland Fling" by Miss Powell.

1868: Performed by the Lanarkshire Dramatic Club in the Garrison Theatre, Cape Town, on 21 March, with The Sergeant's Wife (Banim). Music by the Regimental Band.


John McCormick, Clodagh McCormick, and John Phillips. 2004. The Victorian Marionette Theatre: p. 137[2]

Facsimile version of the published text, in Cawthorn’s Minor British Theatre, (Volume 4, 1806) (Google eBook) [3]

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [4]: pp. 146, 154, 183, 217, 225, 389, 397 and 415.

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.80, 262

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