New English Theatrical Company
Apparently, according to William Groom the official name of the company was the New English Theatrical Company. However other writers, e.g. Jill Fletcher, refer to it as Parker's Company, since it had been founded by W.F.H. Parker, as does F.C.L. Bosman (again calling it Parker se Geselskap in Afrikaans) and even The English Company at times.
The company was founded some time in 1847 by professional theatre practitioner W.F.H. Parker, who was once more in Cape Town with his "Theatre of Mechanics" (Automata). He had begun to move into the field of more formal theatre, , using local performers.
In 1847 the company leased the newly renovated Drury Lane Theatre for one season of light dramas and operas. In 1850 they performed at the Victoria Theatre (Hope Street Theatre) and the year after they were back at Drury Lane Theatre, after which they seemed to disappear from the scene, replaced by an English Amateur Company which was made up of at least some of the older company's amateur members and officers of the garrison.
Both Bosman (1928) and Fletcher (1994) suggest that, because of some harsh criticism of the theatre and the company expressed by the local critic Sam Sly, the New English Theatrical Company did not survive much more than the year, though Parker himself remained on the scene in various guises into the 1850s.
The Company members
The company members, which included men and women, were apparently a mix of professional and local amateur players, drawn from the (temporarily defunct) Garrison Players and other local groups. Listed among them were were H. Hughes (who was both actor and stage manager), Mr Miller, Mr Etton, Mr Rogers, Mr Herbert, Mr Tilbury, Mrs Parker, Mrs Hughes and young master C. Hill.
The company's repertoire under Parker's management included inter alia the above mentioned Luke the Labourer (Buckstone), as well as Victorine (Buckstone) , The King's Command (Thompson) and Damp Beds (Parry), Woman's the Devil, Matteo Falcone (Merimée, tr. Wilson), The King's Command (Thompson), The Midday Ashore (Bernard).
The quality of their work seems to have been a little suspect however. In January 1849 the company's production of Buckstone's Luke the Labourer received 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, because of this, the company itself did not survive much more than the year, though Parker himself remained on the scene in various guises into the 1850s. Both Bosman (1928) and Fletcher (1994) suggest that, because of this, the New English Theatrical Company did not survive much more than the year, though Parker himself remained on the scene in various guises into the 1850s.this criticism actually caused the company to close down temporarily.
Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.
William Groom. 1899. Drama in Cape Town. Cape Illustrated Magazine, 10(4.
Go to ESAT Bibliography
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page