Little Jack Horner
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, 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, it was written by E.L. Blanchard (1820-1889), 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.
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) 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 called Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin A.B.C. (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 programme for the presentation (provided by Bosman, 1980: pp.194-198) 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. The piece had a vast cast consisting of "Rustics, Clodhoppers Villagers" and a procession of "26 of the best characters from the S.A. College" representing the letters A to Z. On the 26th the pamntomime was preceded by A Pair of Pigeons (Stirling) and on the 27th by The Irish Tutor (Butler).
Jeffrey Richards. 2014, The Golden Age of Pantomime: Slapstick, Spectacle and Subversion in Victorian England. I.B. Tauris
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