William Haviland and Gerald Lawrence Shakespearean Company
Founding and early history
Founded by William Haviland (1860-1917) and Gerald Lawrence (1873–1957) as the William Haviland and Gerald Lawrence Shakespearean Company
Aims and function
Impact on SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
In the period 1897-1898: the Haviland and Lawrence Shakespearian & Dramatic Company came to South Africa with a company that included g William Haviland, Amy Coleridge, Gerald Lawrence, Garrett Todd, Mr Hathorn, Mr Brereton, Miss Alokin, and Miss Augusta Haviland. They tour the country with a large repertoire of Shakespearian plays, directed by William Haviland, including The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing.
1897: The Haviland and Lawrence Shakespearian & Dramatic Company performed William Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Port Elizabeth Opera House on Friday, December 31, 1897, and January 1, 1898. Directed by William Haviland and starring William Haviland, Amy Coleridge, Gerald Lawrence, Garrett Todd, Mr ? Hathorn, Mr ? Brereton, Miss ? Alokin, Miss Augusta Haviland
Eastern Province Herald critique, January 3, 1898: "Mr Haviland has earned the gratitude of South Africans by his spirited and most excellent production of Shakespeare’s plays. The task was colossal, and the risk heavy, for no one knew how Shakespeare would take, or whether the lovers of the pure classic drama were sufficiently numerous to fill the theatre even for a night or two. Mr Haviland took the risk, and his faith has been justified. It was no slight undertaking for another reason.
"South Africa would not be unreasonable enough to expect the perfection to be attained only after months of patient work on every detail of the play, hundreds of tedious rehearsals when the value of each word was duly weighed and discussed, when every part was fitted to the player, and a fit player found for every part, when every scene was carefully constructed and every possible accessory in its place.
"South Africa would not expect all that but it is certain that South Africans would not have supported a Shakespearean production that was not commensurate with their conception of the play.
"What Mr Haviland has given us has been scenery and accessories as complete as anyone will be able to carry about this country, and intelligent impersonation of every part, and in his own case a brilliant, artistic and vivid realization of the thoughts of the great master of the English language and the greatest playwright the world has produced. It is fair to remember that the active manager’s troubles do not end there.
"In the production of a great play it is fair to allow actors and actresses to settle into their parts, to effect improvements, correct errors and the rest, in fact, to remove the awkwardness of the first nights, to bring into relief telling points to tone down others, and so on. Mr Haviland has no such opportunity. He has to go through a succession of first nights. He exhausts his number of patrons in a couple of nights and must change from The Taming of the Shrew to the The Merchant of Venice, from that to Hamlet to Much Ado About Nothing, and all within a week or so. If he survives the ordeal, we hope he may give us Richard III and Macbeth, but we shall be content to wait for a further visit.
"As to the play, there is no question or difference of opinion on the high excellence of the production on Friday and Saturday nights. (Friday, December 31, 1878 and Saturday, January 1, 1898. - Ed)
"Students of Shakespeare comprise a large percentage of English-speaking people, and the great majority of these differ in opinion as to the correct rendering of certain passages. Nearly all the leading actors possess their own acting edition of the plays, and Mr Haviland has his, a Lyceum edition amended. Discussion on those points may be omitted, and players are content to have the noble lines spoken, provided the actor will but put . . . them.” (Newspaper article torn with 13 lines broken.) “. . . our mortal hours after doing a hard day’s work in the preparation of another Shakespearian play to be produced a couple of days later. That is not by way of criticism but of explanation of occasional inequality, for it would be simply ungrateful to avail at any feature of the performance.
"Laertes found a spirited and intelligent deputy in Mr Gerald Lawrence who has made marked strides in his profession since he last visited us. He was excellent throughout, though he might have let himself go a little more in the grave scene which, up to a certain point, is his. There was something of abruptness, too, in his speech, concluding with his insult to the priest and the change from sadness to anger could hardly be so rapid. The anger, in fact, should be sustained with the words “What ceremony else.” Laertes rages, he does not lament. The difficult part of the King was well spoken by Mr Garrett Todd, and dear old Polonins was Polonins. Mr Hathorn successfully losing himself in the character. The trusty Horatio could not be better personified, nor could Rosencrantz, Guilderstein, and Marcelles.
"Mr ? Brereton’s Gravedigger did full justice to his important part in the play, and if Mr Horace Pollock could throw his voice an octave or so lower, he would make a still greater success of the part of the ghost.
"Shakespeare never created a more thoughtless or difficult part for a woman to grapple with than that of Ophelia. The fair maid only appears to be lectured by her brother, snubbed by her father, reviled and insulted by Hamlet, and finally to wail through the mad scene. Miss Amy Coleridge courageously made the best of it all. Miss ? Alokin, as Queen, wrestled with a role almost equally thankless, and sustained it, while Miss Augustis Haviland made a most captivating dandy.
"Tonight and tomorrow the Company will play Much Ado About Nothing."
Eastern Province Herald January 3, 1898.
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