Luke the Labourer, or the Lost Son

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Luke the Labourer, or the Lost Son is a domestic melodrama in two acts by John Baldwin Buckstone (1802-1879)[1].

(Also referred to simply as Luke the Labourer.)

The original text

The play is set in a village in Yorkshire and was first written in 1826 and performed at the Adelphi Theatre, London on 17 October. The text was published in 1827.

Performance history in South Africa

1849: Presented in Cape Town in January 1849 by W.F.H. Parker, in the Drury Lane Theatre with the New English Theatrical Company (also referred to as Parker's Company in some sources).

The production received much praise from the Cape Town Mail, but Sam Sly responded with a harsh critique of the theatre and the company, suggesting that the Cape Town Mail review displayed "exaggerated and false colouring" , for he had not only found that the space was noisy, but also that "the ventilation was abominable and ...the acting was no good..". (quoted in Bosman, 1928: p. 419). Apparently this even caused the company to close down temporarily.

1853: It was done by the English Amateur Company with Grimshaw, Bagshaw and Bradshaw (Morton) as afterpiece, on 19 October 1853, repeated on 24 October.

1859: Performed on 15 June as Luke the Labourer in the Cape Town Theatre by Charles Fraser and his company (in part consisting of players recruited from the 59th Regiment), along with a selection from Macbeth (Shakespeare), Samuel in Search of Himself (Coyne and Coape) and a comic song written and sung by H. Connerton.

1860: Performed on 18 June as Luke the Labourer in the Cape Town Theatre by Sefton Parry and his company as part of a "Grand extra night for the benefit of Mr James Lawson". Also performed is Fortune's Frolic or, The Ploughman Turned Lord (Alingham), a comic dance by Signor Boscarra and a "Highland Fling" by Miss Powell.

1862: Performed twice as Luke the Labourer in the Garrison Theatre, Keiskama Hoek, on 12 and 15 November by the Amateurs of the Band (North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot) with a cast consisting of J. Davies (Squire Chase, Lord of the manor), F. Girton (Wakefield, a decayed farmer), W. Carr (Charles Maydew, a young farmer), W. Allan (Luke the Labourer), J. M'Kechnie (Philip, a sailor), J. F. Gay (Bobby Trot, a country lad), H. Moore (Michael, an old gipsy), A. Vogado (Dick, a postilion), G. Strachan (Thomas, landlord of the King's Head), T. Smith (Dame Wakefield), G. Dawe (Clara, her daughter), J. Newnham (Jenny, a country girl). Also performed was J. M. Maddox's one-act farce, A.S.S.. (For more on contemporary responses to the performances, see the entry on the North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot)

1866: Performed on 8 September in the Garrison Theatre, Cape Town, with The Nervous Cures (a "Popular Dance-Song") and Bombastes Furioso (Rhodes).

1866: Performed again on 18 September by the 9th Regiment in the Garrison Theatre, Cape Town, this time with The Nervous Cures and The Area Belle (Brough and Halliday), as well as a sword dance by H. Wallace.

1876: Performed in the Theatre Royal in Burg Street, Cape Town, on 8 August by Disney Roebuck's company (at the time managed by C. Wilstone), with The Spectre Bridegroom (Moncrieff).

Translations and adaptations


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [2]: pp. 418-9, 423

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.79, 124-5, 257, 341

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg Uitgewers.

North Lincoln Sphinx Vol 1, No 14. December 10th 1862.

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