Fun on the Bristol

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Fun on the Bristol is a musical comedy in three acts by John F. Sheridan (1848-1908)[1] and George Fawcett (1834–1889)[2]

Also known as Fun on the Bristol, or A Night on the Sound.

The original text

The play was inspired by Sheridan’s involvement in a short sketch called Muldoon's Trip to Boston devised at the Brooklyn Playhouse - a skit on the H.M.S. Pinafore craze then sweeping America, in which a Mrs. Muldoon takes her daughter, who was crazy about the musical, from New York to Boston to put her in an insane asylum. Once on board ship, an impromptu concert was then organised in the saloon.

The success of the slight farce impressed Sheridan, particularly the role of the Widow, which he saw as a potential vehicle for himself. He considered it a good idea to work out a three act comedy on the same lines. So he gave a sketch of his ideas to the actor and dramatist George Fawcett (George Fawcett Rowe, 1834–1889), asking to write the play, though reserving the character of the "Widow O'Brien" for his own invention.

The action of the play takes place in an uptown New York house and later on the Sound steamer "Bristol", the story revolving around the elderly Irish Widow O'Brien and her two daughters who - like the characters in Muldoon's Trip to Boston - also have a Pinafore fixation and are being taken to an asylum.

The first performance of Fun on the Bristol was given at the Newport Theatre, Rhode Island, in 1879. After it had opened at the Theatre Royal in Manchester on May 15 1882, the play became an immediate sensation across the English-speaking world, Sheridan himself also touring widely with it over the years. He was particularly popular in Australia.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1904: Performed at the Good Hope Theatre, Cape Town, opening on 10 September, with John F. Sheridan in the role of the "Widow".


E. Le Roy Rice. 1911. Monarchs of Minstrelsy, from "Daddy" Rice to Date. Рипол Классик: p.183[3]

J.P. Wearing. 2013. The London Stage 1890-1899: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. (Second, revised edition, p. 423). Scarecrow Press, Google E-book: p. 183[4]

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 1932. (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.421

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