The original text
The plot revolves around Lord Fancourt Babberley, an undergraduate whose friends Jack and Charley persuade him to impersonate the latter's aunt. The complications of the plot include the arrival of the real aunt and the attempts of an elderly fortune hunter to woo the bogus aunt.
The first performance took place at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds in February 1892, before it opened in London at the Royalty Theatre on 21 December 1892. Soon transferred to Globe Theatre on 30 January 1893, the production's 1,466 performances eventually broke the then record for longest-running play worldwide.
Equally successful on Broadway and in Paris, the play toured internationally, becoming one of the most successful farces in theatrical history, constantly revived throughout the 20th century.
Translations and adaptations
The play has been translated into many languages, adapted into operas, movies, TV films, and musical plays over the years.
In 1948 Where's Charley?, a musical based on the play opened in New York, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser (1910–1969) and book by George Abbott (1887–1995) . It starred Ray Bolger and ran for 792 performances. A film version released in 1952.
A recent one act version of the original play, scaled down to just under an hour's playing time, has been published online by Gary Peterson.
South African translations and adaptations
Performance history in South Africa
1895: Performed in South Africa by the Annie Baldwin Company.
1908: The Preller Afrikaans translation performed at the Opera House, Pretoria, April, on 1908, by the Afrikaans-Hollandse Toneelvereniging to an invited audience including the colonial secretary, General J.C. Smuts. Backdrops painted by Frans Oerder. It would remain a firm favourite in the repertory of the AHTV until 1910, and became immensely popular on tour, including performances in Cape Town.
1950: Presented by the Brian Brooke Company at the Hofmeyr Theatre directed by British director Mary Byron with Brian Brooke as "Lord Fancourt Babberley", Laurence Ayris as "Jack Chesney" and Nigel Hawthorne as "Charley Wykeham". Settings by Frank and Doreen Graves, December 1950.
1952: Piet se Tante was presented by JAATS at the Library Theatre, directed by Jan Bruyns, starring Vivian Styger (Willem Moolman), Zanne Cloete, Billy Pretorius, Gys Steyn, Andries Strydom and Alvino Willemse.
1965: The CAPAB production of the Mohr Afrikaans translation Charley se Tante opened at the Hofmeyr Theatre on 20 March, directed by Mohr. Decor and costumes by Pamela Lewis. The cast: Limpie Basson (Jack Chesney), Chris Fourie (Brassett), Ernst Eloff (Charles Wykeham), Jannie Gildenhuys (Lord Fancourt Babberley), Antoinette Terblanche (Kitty Verdun), Marie Pentz (Amy Spettigue), Pieter Bredenkamp (Colonel Sir Frances Chesney, Bart), Bertie van der Merwe (Stephen Spettigue), Tine Balder (Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez), Valerie Shwer (Ela Delahey). It was that year's most popular play with audiences, with 58 performances.
1973: In March it was presented by PACT in the Breytenbach Theatre and the Alexander Theatre, directed by Frank Shelley. The cast: John Boulter (Colonel Sir Frances Chesney, Bart), Norman Coombes(Stephen Spettigue), Richard Haines (Jack Chesney), Eckard Rabe (Charles Wykeham), James White (Lord Fancourt Babberley), Frank Shelley (Brassett), Shelagh Holliday (Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez), Gillian Garlick (Kitty Verdun), Caroline Cater (Amy Spettigue) and Eleanor Thomas (Ela Delahey). Decor and costumes by Chris van den Berg.
1983: The Mohr Afrikaans translation Charley se Tante was staged by PACT, directed by Stephan Bouwer, featuring Louis van Niekerk (Kolonel Sir Frances Chesney, Bart), Jacques Loots (Stephen Spettigue), Schalk Schoombie (Jack Chesney), Johan Engelbrecht (Charles Wykeham), David van der Merwe (Lord Fancourt Bebberley), Nico Liebenberg (Brassett), Alida Theron (Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez), Rina Nienaber (Kity Verdun), Ilse Schmidt (Amy Spettigue) and Kelsey Middleton (Ela Delahey). Design by Andrew Botha and lighting by Michael Lovegrove.
1988: A Pieter Toerien production was directed by Rex Garner assisted by Tammy Bonell at the Theatre on the Bay, opening 15 December, starring Tobie Cronjé as Lord Fancourt Babberley, Errol Hart, George Korelin, Bruce Fields, Eleni Cousins, Carol Andrew, John Boulter, Timothy Welsh, Patricia Sanders, Cassandra Holliday. Lighting by Jannie Swanepoel, set designed by Kay Page, costumes co-ordinated by Alison Yates.
Brooke 1978. 197, 199.
Helikon, 1(4):93. 1952. (re JAATS production).
Charley se Tante programme, 1965.
PACT theatre programmes, 1973, 1983.
Charley's Aunt programme, 1988.
PACOFS Drama 25 Years, 1963-1988.
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