Le Portefeuille Rouge

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Le Portefeuille Rouge is a drama in five acts by Marc Fournier (1818-1879)[1] and Henri Horace Meyer (1801-1870)[2].

The original text

First performed at the Théâtre Beaumarchais, Paris on 16 February, 1862 and published in Théâtre Contemporain Illustré by Michel Lévy frères, Paris, in the same year.

Translations and adaptations

The play became the source for a 3 volume novel called Foul Play by Dion Boucicault (1820-1890)[3] and Charles Reade (1814-1884)[4], which appeared in instalments in the literary magazine Once a Week, from January to June 1868, with illustrations by George du Maurier, and was first published in 1868 by Bradbury, Evans and Co., London, and Ticknor and Fields, Boston, in the same year.

In 1868 Boucicault adapted the novel for the stage as an English text called Foul Play, a nautical melodrama telling of innocence, transportation and the infamous practice of scuttling ships, (and ascribed to both Dion Boucicault and Charles Reade). The English play was first performed at the New Holborn Theater, London, under the management of Miss Fanny Josephs on 28 May 1868 for not too successful run. This text was also published in London by Bradbury, Evans and Co. in 1868.Published in and by The Dramatic Publishing Company, Chicago as no 368 of Sergel's Acting Drama. (Also found as Foul Play, or The Scuttled Ship.)

In 1876 Charles Reade undertook his own adaptation of their novel, now called The Scuttled Ship (or A Scuttled Ship), first performed on 2 April 1877 at the Olympic Theatre, London, where it was a critical failure.

The original French play was also adapted for the use of young people by J. G. W. McGown and published in a new version by Beauchemin, Montréal in the 1890s.

Performance history in South Africa

1878: The Boucicault and Reade version was performed under the title of Foul Play or The Scuttled Ship, as a part of benefit for Mr Tom Paulton and his wife (Mrs Tom Paulton) by an anonymous company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, with the "Burlesque Pantomime" of Bluebeard (Planché and Dance).


Facsimile version of the original French text, BnF Gallica[5]

Facsimile version of the McGown version, Hathi Trust Digital Library[6]

Richard Fawkes. 1979. Dion Boucicault. Ardent Media: pp. 59-60[7]

John Sutherland. 2014. The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. Routledge: p.230 [8]

Facsimile version of the edition of the play called Foul Play by The Dramatic Publishing Company, Chicago (no 368 of Sergel's Acting Drama). Hathi Trust Digital Library[9]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 371.

William Groom. 1899-1900. Drama in Cape Town. Cape Illustrated Magazine, 10(4): 478-481, 517-520, 547-552, 580-584, 640-643, 670-672, 706-708.

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