Private Amateur Company

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The Private Amateur Company was a somewhat generic name given to at least two amateur theatrical companies active in Cape Town in the 19th century.

The Private Amateur Company 1834-1837


A company referred to as Private Amateur Company seems to have been formed by members of citizens of Cape Town on the demise of Booth’s All the World's a Stage in 1834. Probably a continuation of the original English Theatricals and its members no doubt become part of the other private companies that followed after its own demise in 1838. This was probably also due to the closure and sale of The African Theatre in 1839 and the anti-theatrical movement's effect on theatre in Cape Town generally.

They usually performed under the patronage of the governor, mostly for charitable purposes, and in itially used The Amateur Theatre (1834 and 1835), then the Cape Town Theatre (1837-1838), a period when when they were referred to as the Private Amateur Party and even on occasion the English Amateur Company.

The only individuals mentioned who may have been possible members of the company were Mr Whiley and H. Westcott ("stage manager").


The company started out most ambitiously with Shakespeare, doing Othello, or The Moor of Venice on 20 August, 1834 (with Somerset's one act farce A Day after the Fair as afterpiece), a performance supported by the Governor and partly in aid of the Ladies' Benevolent Fund. Another Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, with Moncrieff's farce The Spectre Bridegroom, or A Ghost in spite of Himself as afterpiece) followed on 30 September, 1834, after which they seem to have chosen to go with less demanding fare.

Further performances included:

1834: Guy Faux, or the Gunpowder Treason (Marfarren), A Day after the Fair (Somerset),

1835: A Cure for the Heartache (Morton), The Two Gregories (Dibdin), Venice Preserved (Otway), A Day after the Fair (Somerset), The Gambler's Fate, or A Lapse of Twenty Years (Thompson), Mr Thompson, or Which is He? (Moncrieff?), Ivanhoe, or The Knight Templar (Scott/Farley), All at Coventry, or Love and Laugh (Moncrieff).

1836: No performances seem to have taken place.

1837: The Miller's Maid (Saville), The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles (Planché), Bertram, or The Castle of St. Aldobrand (Maturin), Past Ten O'clock and a Rainy Night (Dibdin).

1838: The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles (Planché), Love in Humble Life (Payne), Amateurs and Actors (Peake), Ambrose Guinett, or A Sea-Side Story (Jerrold), The Spectre Bridegroom, or A Ghost in spite of Himself (Moncrieff).

The Private Amateur Company 1847


In 1847 there is another reference to a company of this name in Cape Town (active circa 1843-1847), though it is also named the Private English Amateur Theatrical Company or the English Private Theatricals.

They played in the De Hollandse Skouburg ("Dutch Theatre") in Roeland Street , popularly known as the Roeland Street Theatre, and their secretary was A. van Breda. It appears to have been made up of mainly Dutch-speaking players (including E.G. de Roubaix, Mr Maynier, Mr de Wahl, Mr Combrink, etc.), even though performing in English.


William Groom (1899) describes attending a performance of The Miller and his Men (Pocock) in 1843, and they did The Castle Spectre (Lewis) (twice), with Comfortable Lodgings (Peake) the afterpiece. The company's final performance was on 6 November 1847.

[TH, JH, MN]


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [1]: pp. 204-8, 416-7

P.J. du Toit, 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica

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