Men Doet Wat Men Kan

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Men Doet Wat Men Kan ("One does what one can") was a short-lived Dutch amateur theatre society in Cape Town.

The name was based on their motto, "Men doet wat men kan" ("One does what one can"), taken from the name of Men Doet Wat Men Kan, Niet Wat Men Wil, a play by Dorvigny.

They were also referred to as Het Hollandsch Toneellievend Gezelschap (lit. "The Dutch theatre loving company")


Founded in Cape Town 1819, according to Bosman (1928) as a "mushroom company", possibly formed by some rebels who had broken away from the company Tot Nut en Vermaak and taking in some people from another society, Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense. The intention may have been to get all the Dutch performers together in one organization. Its secretary was J.C. Gie, formerly of Tot Nut en Vermaak, and the teacher and playwright C.E. Boniface was also involved. The company only lasted the one year, apparently disbanding by December 1819, as a result of internal strife.

The Performances

During 1819 they performed in the refurbished African Theatre, Cape Town, doing eight plays.

They began with Menschenhaat en Berouw (Von Kotzebue) on 12 June, followed by Uilenspiegel (Von Kotzebue), De Dochter van Pharao (Von Kotzebue), Montoni, of Het Kasteel van Udolpho (Duval), De Speler (Iffland), De Belagchelyke Juffers (Molière), Men Doet Wat Men Kan, Niet Wat Men Wil (Dorvigny) and Dago, of De Spaansche Bedelaars (Cuvelier). Their final performance was a repetition of the latter play on 6 December.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [1]: pp. 132-136, 153, 161-169, 174, 275 and 341.

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