Gustavus V. Brooke

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Gustavus V. Brooke (1818-1866)[1] was a visting actor, styled as a “great Tragedian” from England.

Also referred to in some sources as Gustavus Brooke or G.V. Brooke.


Born Gustavus Vaughan Brooke in Dublin, Ireland, he went onto the stage at the age of about 15. He apparently had a good presence and a fine voice, and for a while made quite a career in England and Ireland, but ultimately failed to fulfill his early promise, mainly due to a major drinking problem and poor financial management.

So he took to touring, which appears to have suited him better, playing in America and the colonies. He left England on 25 November 1854, played a week at Cape Town Garrison Theatre and arrived at Melbourne on 23 February 1855 - to stay in Australia for more than six years. He died in the shipwreck of the SS London, while on his way back to Australia for a second engagement in 1866.

His name was at one time linked to that of the actress Marie Duret, though the two were never married.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

He arrived in Cape Town on 30 December 1854 and his brief visit to Cape Town with his company en route for his first engagement in the Australian goldfields apparently had quite an impact on local culture in the South African city. His appearances were apparently arranged by the Cape Town based impresario J.R. Taylor.

The company consisted of Miss Fanny Cathcart and Mr R. Younge and they performed in the Barracks Theatre during the revictualling of their vessel, presenting excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Othello,The Iron Chest and The Lady of Lyons, plus full performances of Box and Cox, The Stranger, The Angel of the Attic, and other light afterpieces. Apparently not well staged, but popular nevertheless.

He left the Cape on the SS Pacific on 10 January, 1855.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [2]: pp.409-412, 431, 475, 490-4, 504.

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 58, 166, 204-6, 253

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.

Phyllis Hartnoll (ed). 1967. The Oxford Companion to the Theatre. Third edition, Oxford University Press: p. 133.

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