Little Jack Horner

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Little Jack Horner can refer to the famous English nursery rhyme, or to a number of stories, plays and other adaptations inspired by it.

The original nursery rhyme

Little Jack Horner[1], is the name of a famous English nursery rhyme, with strong moralising and political undertones, which has been the reworked and used in many ways since the 18th century. It has no doubt also been the direct or indirect source for a number of pantomimes and plays.

Below those performed in South Africa.

Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin ABC by Blanchard (1857)

The original text

An English pantomime, inspired by the famous English nursery rhyme, Little Jack Horner[2], it was written by E.L. Blanchard (1820-1889)[3], and performed at the Drury Lane Theatre, London in the 1857–8 season.

Blanchard's allegoric work is particularly noted for its moralizing tone, being described by Jeffrey Richards as "a plea for "literacy, knowledge, intelligence and imagination" (2014, p.223), and particularly admired for the visual effects in the production.

Also found as Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin A.B.C. or simply Harlequin ABC.

Translations or adaptations

William Groom (cited by F.C.L. Bosman, 1980: pp. 192-3) claims that a pantomime called Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin A.B.C. was done in South Africa and was an "original" work penned by a Mr B. Mollan of Cape Town "expressly for the Occasion". The reviewer in the Cape Argus of 28 December, 1865, also suggests that, while most of the work was original, the opening scene of "The Depths of Darkness, and Mystic Still and Laboratory of the Demon Alcohol" was in fact plagiarized from an "Original Extravaganza" by Francis Cowley Burnand (1836-1917)[4] called Ixion, or The Man at the Wheel.

However, the claim in the flier for the presentation that a "new" overture and music was composed by Mr W.G. Browne, does suggest that the pantomime itself may have been a local adaptation of the British play by Mollan, and that only the presentation of it was in fact "original".

Performance history in South Africa

1865: A pantomime by this name (and ascribed to B. Mollan) was performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Messrs Alfred Ray and R.S. Cooper on 26-27 December. According to the flier for the presentation a "new" overture and music was composed by Mr W.G. Browne, choreography of dances was by Mrs R.I. Cooper, scenery by Mr R.S. Cooper, properties and masks by Mr Der. F. la Yar, mechanical contribution by Mr W.G. Browne, Harlequinade and Pantomimic business by Mr Alfred Ray, and Herr Luin, comic scenes painted by Mr C.J.M. Smith.

1866: Performed for two more nights (4 and 6 January) in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Messrs Alfred Ray and R.S. Cooper .

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Jack_Horner

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._C._Burnand

http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/panto/richards1.html

http://www.its-behind-you.com/drurylanepantos.html

Jeffrey Richards. 2014, The Golden Age of Pantomime: Slapstick, Spectacle and Subversion in Victorian England. I.B. Tauris

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 192-3

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