Bleak House

(Redirected from Poor Little Jo)
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Bleak House is the name of a famous novel by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)[1], which was often dramatized.

The novel

The novel was first published as a 20-episode serial between March 1852 and September 1853, and is considered by amny to be one of Dickens's best novels. It has many characters and several sub-plots, so dramatizations of the book tended to single out plot strands for staging, in some cases choosing a suitable title to indicate the choice.

Dramatizations of the novel

Wikipedia mentions at least three 19th century adaptations for the stage, and a number of radio, film and TV versions in the 20th century[2]. Undoubtedly there have been many more.

Below we list only such versions as have been performed in South Africa.

Jo by J.P. Burnett

The original text

Written in 1876 by John Pringle Burnett ()[], the play focussed on the sympathetic key character of "Jo", the young boy who lives on the streets and tries to make a living as a crossing sweeper - probably written as a vehicle for his wife, Jennie Lee, who played "Jo" in the original production, and often afterwards - apparently playing it more than 9000 times on tour throughout the United Kingdom, America, Australia, South Africa and India.

Translations and adaptations

Poor Little Jo by an unnamed author

No information has yet been found on a work by this name, but this may have been an alternative title for Burnett's play Jo.

Performance history of the various adaptations in South Africa

1878: Jo (Burnett) performed for the first time in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and his company, opening on 8 April as a benefit for Miss Hilda Temple. Also featured a ballad by Miss Gertrude Wynne and a "new ballet".

1882: Poor Little Jo (no author named) performed by Mabel Hayes and her company as part of a season in the Theatre Royal in Burg Street, Cape Town.

1894: Jo (Burnett) performed in the Opera House, Cape Town, by Jennie Lee and J.P. Burnett, under the auspices of Arturo Bonamici, in a season that also included Caste ( Robertson) and Run Wild ()[].


"Bleak House" in Wikipedia[3],

D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.367, 400

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