Mr Cuerton

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Mr Cuerton (17**-18**) was probably a former professional thespian, one who claims to have performed at five theatres in London, and perhaps a dance and singing teacher in Cape Town, active in theatre from about 1813 till 1815.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

He was apparently a chief organizer of productions in the African Theatre during this period, surely in association with the Garrison Players, not only creating, directing and participating in productions, but also at times being responsible for the sale of tickets from his quarters at number 8 Lely Street, later at number 8 Berg Street. The company was at times referred to as Mr Cuerton's Company.

He seems to have been a singer, whistler and dancer himself, often performing in this capacity in interludes between plays, and clearly had a strong interest in the pantomime, most likely being the creator of and performer in a number of such works (usually distinguished by the words Harlequin[1] and/or Pantomime[2]) performed in these years (see below). According to Bosman (1928: p.144-5), his work clearly had an influence on Charles Etienne Boniface.

Among the productions where we find him specifically mentioned are -

In 1813: a Harlequin Pantomime[3], presented on 17 June as a benefit performance "for the widows and orphans of the troops in the Garrison", and including a military concert; on 17 July with The Village Lawyer (Macready) and on 14 August with a shortened version of Shakespeare's King Lear. On 23 October he is responsible for an evening of song and dance, as accompaniment to The Village Lawyer and Robinson Crusoe, or Harlequin Friday (Sheridan), and on 6 November a repeat of the Sheridan pantomime, with a whistling performance folk songs by Cuerton himself.

In 1814: On 16 April a pantomime called Three Witches, or Harlequin Reanimated was done along with a "grand ballet" called Don Juan, or The Libertine Destroyed (Shadwell),; on 10 June (and repeated on 28 June), a Harlequinesque Pantomime once more, with Whistle for It, or The Banditti Destroyed (Lambe); and on 13 August a repeat of Don Juan, or The Libertine Destroyed with a Pantomime Farce featuring Mr Arnot as "Harlequin" and Mr Cuerton as "Clown".

In 1815: In this year he more clearly steps to the fore as a full professional, announcing on 11 March that he is to undertake complete repairs to the African Theatre and open it for 7 nights during the winter season. (Bosman, 1928: p. 145). He has engaged both men and women for the season of dramatic pieces, each evening accompanied by Harlequinades[4] or Ballet Pantomimes[5], new dances, and so on. Plays mentioned include: on 7 April John Bull (Colman), followed by a "Harlequin Pantomime" (possibly by Mr Cuerton, cited in Dutch by Bosman (1928: p 146), as Oud tot Jong Gemaald, of De Krommesprongen van Harlequin); on 6 May The Will for the Deed, with a repeat of the harlequinade, but with many additions, and a performance of a popular song by Mr Cuerton; on 27 May The Padlock (Bickerstaffe) and The Shipwreck, a ballet by Brandes.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [6]: pp. 143-6, 159-164, 170-1, 176-7.

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