Mrs Black

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Mrs Black (18**-18**) was a "mantuamaker"[1] (dressmaker) of profession and a prominent semi-professional, actress in Cape Town in the 1820s-1830s. For just over eleven years (1823-1834) she was apparently the most important actress in the Cape. Apparently neither her business nor her acting was sufficiently lucrative to maintain her in Cape Town haowever, and thus she left the Cape to return home with her four children in 1834.

Her contribution to South African theatre

She appeared in a number of roles for inter alia the English Theatricals, the Garrison Amateur Company and the English Theatrical Amateur Company and Finally All The World's A Stage. Her name is specifically mentioned in connection with the following roles and/or plays, often as the beneficiary of a benefit performance:

1823: Her first named roles were "Donna Violante" in The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret (Mrs Centlivre) and "Lady Racket" in Three Weeks after Marriage (Murphy). The evening is a benefit for Mrs Black.

1824: A benefit evening was held for her on 11 September, with Inkle and Yarico (Colman Jr) and The Spoiled Child (Bickerstaffe).

1825: She played "Lady Cranberry" in Exchange no Robbery (Hook), and "Flora" in The Midnight Hour (Dumaniant/Inchbald);

1826: She played "Cecily Homespun" in The Heir at Law (Colman Jr) and a benefit performance was held for her on 29 July, consisting of Past 10 o'Clock and a Rainy Night (Dibdin), Gallant Truths, or Sprigs of No-A-Bility and The Unspoiled Child (Bickerstaffe)

1827: She performed in benefit performances held for her and Mrs Johnson on 5 September 1827, doing She Stoops to Conquer (Goldsmith) and Bombastes Furioso (Rhodes).

1829: She appears to be part of a new company, the English Amateur Theatrical Company, who hold a benefit for her on 9 May, with Reformation (Anon), The Mogul Tale, or The Descent of the Balloon (Mrs Inchbald) and Trick for Trick, or The Admiral's Daughter (Anon).

1831: A benefit performance was held for her on 4 June by All the World's a Stage, with Douglas (Home) and Where Shall I Dine?, or No Dinner Yet? (Rodwell).

1833: A benefit performance was held for her on 22 June by All the World's a Stage, with Evadne, or The Statue (Shiel) and The Deaf Lover, or How to Cure the Gout (Pilon). It is announced as her last appearance.

1834: A benefit performance was held for her and her four children on 19 November 1834, with The Midnight Hour (Inchbald) and The Illustrious Stranger, or Married and Buried (Kenney and Milligan).


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [2]: pp. pp. 188-189, 192-204, 216, 266, 370-383.

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