Marie Duret

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Marie Duret (floreat 1850s to 1870s, died 1881) was an English professional actress and manager.

Also referred to as Madam Marie Duret in Australia, and Madame Duret (or Mrs Duret) in South Africa, possibly to suggest a French origin.


Information about the early years of Marie Duret is unfortunately scant. She was apparently born in England, but must have moved to the USA as a young actress, for she really made quite a name for herself as an actress and manager in the USA in the mid 19th century. For example in 1850, after making a name for herself as a "dashing and spirited" performer, specializing in athletic feats on stage and breeches roles[1] in a repertoire that included such spectacular works as The French Spy, Aladdin, or The Wonderful Lamp, Flowers of the Forest, Zarah, or The Gypsey's Revenge, and Jack Sheppard, or The Housebreaker of the Last Century.

She appeared at a number of New York theatres, founding her own company in 1853 and even managing the Museum theatre in Utica, New York for a number of months, and in 1855 performed in Albany, New York. . She then appears to have visited Australia, and then either returned to the South West or to England.

According to Phelps, her name was at one time linked to that of the tragedian Gustavus Brooke, though they were not married, and later (according to Bosman, 1980) she was married her theatrical partner on her South African tour, J.H. le Roy.

However, she must have returned to the United States in later years, for it appears she set up as an elocution teacher in San Francisco, dying there in poverty in 1881.

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

She apparently worked in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town between 1861 and 1871 with her husband, Mr J.H. le Roy, as one half of the Leroy and Duret or Le Roy and Duret Company (apparently also known as the Leroy's Company or Leroy's Original Company). They had most likely arrived on the way back from Australia, and leased the Harrington Street Theatre and were particularly active in the work presented by the British garrison in Cape Town, doing 4 seasons.

In Cape Town also she was generally regarded as a formidable actress and clearly a viewed as a character actress. Her repertoire still included male roles and performing multiple characters in various plays specifically selected for her. Those done in South Africa included three characters in The French Spy, or The Wild Arab of the Desert, six in the protean farce The Actress of All Work (Oxberry) and eight in Winning a Husband (Buckstone).

For more performances by the company and Madame Duret, see Le Roy and Duret Company



Henry Pitt Phelps.1880. Players of a Century: A Record of the Albany Stage. Albany: J. McDonough, p. 292.[2]

Jane Kathleen Curry. 1994. Nineteenth-century American Women Theatre Managers. Greenwood: pp. 29-30.[3]

Bosman, F.C.L., Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. 1980: pp.

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