Harry Burton

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There are two personalities involved in South African theatre and performance by the name Harry Burton.

Not to be confused with the actor Captain Burton

Harry Burton (Snr, fl. mid 19th century)

Also found as H. Burton, he was a court usher at the Supreme Court and an enthusiastic local amateur or semi-professional performer in Cape Town.

He was the father of the musical director and conductor Harry Burton (fl 1900).

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

Harry Burton senior was active as actor and musician for much of his adult life. For example he appears as a member of the private (i.e. non regimental) concert company known as Amateur Coloured Troupe in the Minstrelsy[1] style popularized by the Christy Minstrels, active in Cape Town between 1865 and 1871. He was sometimes coupled with the versatile performer Herr Luin in various interludes, such as taking the female part in the comic dance Gocum and Lisbeth (for Leroy and Duret, 1866).

According to Bosman (1980) and Boonzaier (1923), as an actor he was usually seen in subsidiary comic roles, and apparently also performed for Disney Roebuck and other companies over the years, there also only in "the humblest roles" most of the time.

Roles portrayed included "Hobgoblin" and the "Policeman" in Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin A.B.C. (for Ray and Cooper, 1865), "Thomas" in Faces in the Fire (for Henry Harper, 1884) and "Cripps" in The Silver King at the Theatre Royal in Burg Street, (probably his most noteworthy role).

Harry Burton (Jr, fl 1900)

The son of the actor Harry Burton, he was born and began his career as a musical director and conductor in Cape Town, before moving on to England, where he established himself, working for companies such as the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, with which he visited South Africa again in 1903, responsible for the musical direction of the company's seasons while on tour in the country.


D.C. Boonzaier, 1932. "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, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 196, 198, 200, 211-2, 219, 279, 334, 376, 410-411

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