Le Roy and Duret Company

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The Le Roy and Duret Company is name of a British theatrical company constituted and active in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town between 1865 and 1868.

Also referred to as Le Roy and Duret, Leroy and Duret, Le Roy-Duret Company, Leroy's Original Company, Leroy's Company or Le Roy's Company. Also found inverted here and there, i.e. Duret and Le Roy, etc.

The company

A J.H. le Roy and Madame Duret (possibly his wife, and the leading actress for the company) first arrived in South Africa, from Mauritius, in November, 1865. They landed in Port Elizabeth, where they gave a short season there with a company that also included Miss José, Mattie Aldrich, Mr Browne and E. Clifton.

They then travelled to Cape Town, where they formed the Le Roy and Duret Company in 1866, making use of a number of local performers. They leased and had renovated the Harrington Street Theatre (which they later renamed the Theatre Royal) and there, as well as select other venues, presented a large number of productions over the course of a number of "seasons" till May 1867, when Le Roy left for England to engage new performers. In the intervening season Madame Duret is the sole lessee of the theatre in Cape Town, and the works are fewer.

On Le Roy's return in September 1867, the company was reconstituted and strengthened by the addition of the new players, and went on to perform a few more seasons until 1868, when they finally depart from the Cape.

The players and other people involved with the company over the course of the approximately four years they worked in the Cape included

South African Performances

Listed below are the titles of some of the plays they performed in the various seasons. For actual dates and places of performance, or other information on the plays, click on the title to see the entry.

Initial season, Port Elizabeth (November and December 1865)

They arrived in Port Elizabeth in November, 1865 and did a short season that opened with a performance of Lucretia Borgia (Weston).

First Cape Town season (January to May 1866)

This season ran from 29 January to 24 May of 1866 in the newly renovated Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town, and included one or more performances of Lucretia Borgia (Weston), A Duel in the Dark (Coyne), The Soldier's Daughter (Cherry), Hunting a Turtle (Selby), Fazio, or The Italian Wife's Revenge (Milman), The Creole (Brooks), The Four Sisters, or Woman's Worth and Woman's Wrongs (Bernard), Medea (Euripides), Turn Him Out (Williams), The Momentous Question, or Woman's Devotion (Fitzball), Captain Charlotte, or Hearts and Trumps (Stirling?/Lemon?), The Lady of Lyons (Bulwer-Lytton/Byron), The Married Rake (Selby), The French Spy, or The Wild Arab of the Desert (Aubert), The Actress of All Work (Oxberry), Winning a Husband (Buckstone), Camille or Traviata (Dumas), Love in Humble Life (Scribe and Dupin/Payne), The Dear Admiral (Anon.), The Stranger (Von Kotzebue), The Area Belle (Brough and Halliday), Look Before You Leap (Lovell), A Devilish Good Joke, or A Night's Frolic (Higgie), The Bride of Lammermoor (Scott/ Calcraft), Sam's Arrival (Oxenford), Still Waters Run Deep (Taylor), The Green Bushes (Buckstone), Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare), A Day After the Wedding (Kemble), The Octoroon, or Life in Louisiana (Boucicault) and Bachelor's Buttons (Stirling),

Second Cape Town season (June - November, 1866)

This season ran from 18 June, 1866 to 12 November, 1866, again in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town, with a somewhat smaller company, almost half of the original players having left, , including Alfred Ray, R.S. Cooper and Mrs Cooper, who apparently joined Signor F. Santanna's Grand Olympic Circus in Roggebaai.

The repertoire in this season included one or more performances of (or scenes or acts from) Good for Evil, or A Wife's Trial (Augier), The Actress of All Work (Oxberry), Hunting a Turtle (Selby), The Queen of the Abruzzi (Anon.), Is She a Woman? (Anon.), Charles the Second, or The Merry Monarch (Duval/Payne), Black Ey'd Susan (Jerrold), The Flying Dutchman (Fitzball), Winning a Husband (Buckstone), The Waterman (Dibdin), Lucretia Borgia (Hugo/Weston), Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare), Fazio, or The Italian Wife's Revenge (Milman), The Turned Head (à Beckett), The Soldier's Daughter (Cherry), 'Tis She, or Maid, Wife and Widow (Wilks), The Flowers of the Forest (Buckstone), Easy Shaving (Burnand and Williams), The Roll of the Drum (Wilks), The Four Sisters, The Mutiny at the Nore (Jerrold), On the Sly (Morton), a Great Comic Shadow Pantomime (Le Roy and Duret), Lilian Gervais (Barnett), Where's Your Wife? (Bridgeman), The Demon of the Forest, or Cassander a Cooper (Anon.), The Wraith of Table Mountain (Mollan), Retribution (Taylor), The Dancing Scotchman, or Love in all Corners (Flexmore and Auriol), Plot and Passion (Taylor and Lang), On the Sly (Morton), The Nervous Cures (Brown and Norton), Rob Roy (Scott), Bachelor's Buttons (Stirling), Behind Time (Webster), Governor van Noot, or Things as They Were (Utting), The Little Sentinel (Williams), Jocrisse the Juggler (D'Ennery and Bresil), Don Juan (De Molina, et al.), Pizarro (Kotzebue/Sheridan), Faint Heart (Which) Did Win (a) Fair Lady (Wooler), A Ticket of Leave (Phillips ), Look Before You Leap (Lovell), The Two Galley Slaves (Ducange), Who Killed Cock Robin? (Matthews), Left the Stage, or Thornton Worrying Le Roy (the cast), A Bachelor of Arts (Hardwicke) and Cramond Brig, or The Gudeman of Ballangrich (Scott/Murray).

Third Cape Town Season: "Le Roy's Original Company", January to May, 1867

This season , which was in some ways a way a continuation of the second, ran from 3 January to 28 May, 1867. The company apparently enhanced by the return of some of the former players, and in particular strengthened by the work of the actor and scenarist R.S. Cooper. The theatre used was now renamed the Theatre Royal in Harrington Street, and the repertoire included one or more performances of (or scenes or acts from) the following plays:

The Green Bushes (Buckstone), Found in a Four-Wheeler (Williams), Lucretia Borgia (Hugo/Weston), Mrs Green's Snug Little Business (Cheltnam), Cramond Brig (Murray), The Octoroon (Boucicault), An April Fool (Halliday and Brough), Leah the Forsaken, or The Jewish Maiden's Wrongs (Mosenthal/Daly), The Legend of St Croix (Anon.), The Weft of the Wish-ton-Wish (Cooper/Bernard), The Miller and His Men (Talfourd and Byron), Catching an Heiress (Selby), Ireland as It Is (Amherst), Municipal Muddles, or Love in the Dark (Utting), Margate Sands (Hancock), A Terrible Secret (Waldron), My Wife's Second Floor (Morton), Aurora Floyd (Braddon,et al.), The French Spy (Haines), Betsy Baker (Morton), The Alabama (Morton), The Ticket of Leave Man (Taylor), Which Shall I Marry? (Suter), The Robber's Family (Anon./Pocock?), The Fantoccini Family (Ray), Aladdin, or The Wonderful Scamp (Byron), Capitola, or The Masked Mother and The Hidden Hand (Hazlewood) and Poor Pillicoddy (Morton).

Fourth Cape Town season (Mrs Duret, June to September, 1867)

This season ran from 10 June to 17 September 1867, the theatre and company under the sole management of Mrs Duret, while Le Roy was in England to find new players. She used the time to upgrade the theatre to some extent, including removing the "incommodious and unsightly private boxes" on the side of the auditorium, and putting it all in the dress circle, which now sported "(p)rivate (or stage) boxes, dress circle stalls, pit and gallery".

The short season included productions of Governor von Brute, or Things as They Might Have Been (Mollan), Mr and Mrs Peter White (Raymond), A Dead Shot (Buckstone), Faint Heart Did Win Fair Lady (Wooler), The Sea of Ice (D'Ennery and Dugué/Robertson), Bombastes Furioso (Rhodes), A Match in the Dark (Dance), The Four Sisters (Bernard), Was I to Blame? (Rodwell), The Maid and the Magpie (Caigniez and d'Aubigny/Byron), "A Price for an Hour" (i.e. A Prince for an Hour, by Morton), scenes from Hamlet (Shakespeare), The Actress of all Work (Oxberry), Macbeth Travestie (Talfourd), Shylock Burlesque (Talfourd), The Area Belle (Brough and Halliday), The Isle of St. Tropez (Williams and Burnand) and Box and Cox (Morton).

Fifth Cape Town Season (a new company, September 1867- August 1868)

This was their final season and ran from 25 September 1867 to 14 August 1868, the first part till March of 1868 initially in the Theatre Royal, later (January to March, 1868) in the Commercial Exchange and the Mutual Hall, after the theatre had burnt down in Jannuary. Then followed the second, shorter, part of the season, with a "scratch company", utilising local amateurs, which ran from 4 May till 14 August 1868, performing in the Oddfellows Hall.

Besides their own productions, the company also participated in a few charitable events, such as a Great Promenade Concert in support of the Good Hope Lodge, held in the Good Hope Gardens on 7 February, and included a performance of their "celebrated Shadow Pantomime as lately produced at the Theatre Royal". The concert also involved the 9th Regiment sand the military band led by Signor Bonicoli.

Another such involvement was a Benefit Performance for the Somerset Hospital in Cape Town (on 4 and 5 March), arranged by the officers of the 9th Regiment in the Theatre Royal.

A third kind of activity was Le Roy's organizational role in a two day Grand Fête held during March of 1868 in the tents used earlier by the Agricultural Exhibition in the Company Gardens, Cape Town. (Because of Le Roy's successful endeavour, this kind of public fête would hereafter become a much more regular feature of the cultural scene in Cape Town.) The fête in this case included three full bands, a "Grand Baby Show", a "Magnificent Kalipha Ceremony", R.S. Cooper's "Cosmorama", a "Cave of Mystery", three troupes of Christy Minstrels, plus performances by Leroy's own "full dramatic company".

Besides a number of so-called Dramatic and Drawing Room Entertainments, consisting of songs, dances and excerpts from various plays (see the ESAT entry on Entertainment), and of course productions of a range of Shakespeare plays, or scenes from them (Hamlet; Othello; Romeo and Juliet; The Merchant of Venice, or The Cruel Jew; King John, and Catherine and Petrucchio, or Taming the Shrew), the repertoire of plays put on by the company in the 1867-1878 season also included one or more performances of the following plays (listed alphabetically):

Bandwell vs Pickwick (Dickens), Camilla's Husband (Phillips), A Comical Countess (Brough), Cool as a Cucumber (Jerrold), Crossing the Line (Almar), A Dead Shot (Buckstone), Delicate Ground (Dance), The Dowager (Matthews), Family Jars (Lunn), The Four Sisters (Bernard), Good for Nothing (Buckstone) , Governor von Brute, or Things as They Might Have Been (Mollan), Grimshaw, Bagshaw and Bradshaw (Morton), Guy Mannering (Scott/Terry), Harlequin Prince Perseus, or The Maid and the Monster (Brough), The Honey-Moon (Tobin), The Hunchback (Knowles), If the Cap Fits (Harrington and Yates), John Wopps (Suter), The Ladies' Club (Lemon), The Lady and the Devil (Dimond), The Lady of Lyons (Bulwer-Lytton), The Loan of a Lover (Planché), The Lottery Ticket (Radet and Picard/Beazly), The Maid with the Milking Pail (Buckstone), Medea (burlesque, Brough), Meg's Diversion (Craven), A Model Husband (Wooler), Never Venture, Never Win (Coyne), An Object of Interest (Stocqueler), The Octoroon (Boucicault), Our Wife (Morton), The Porter's Knot (Oxenford), A Rough Diamond (Buckstone), The Silent System (Williams), The Snake in the Grass (Taylor), Somebody Else (Planché), The Swiss Cottage (Bayly), The Two Gregories (Sewrin/Dibdin), Two Loves and a Life (Taylor and Reade), Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly (Beecher Stowe), The Waterman (Dibdin), Who Speaks First (Dance), The Woman in White (Collins), The World and the Stage (Taylor), Young England (Morton), and The Young Widow (Rodwell).


F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 201-242. (Cites William Groom, 1899-1901 to a large extent.)

Carin Berkowitz and Bernard Lightman. 2017. Science Museums in Transition: Cultures of Display in Nineteenth-Century Britain and America. University of Pittsburgh Press[1]


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