Robert Brough

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Robert Brough (1857-1906)[1] was an actor and manager

"Robert Brough" was the professional name of Lionel Barnabas Brough, and should not be confused with that of his father, the English author and playwright Robert Barnabas Brough (1928-1860)[2]. Nor the Scottish painter, Robert Brough (1872–1905))[3].


Born Lionel Barnabas Brough in England, he was the son of Robert Barnabas Brough (1828–1860)[4] journalist, poet and librettist, and Elizabeth Brough (nḗe Romer). His uncle William Brough (1826–1870)[5] was also a playwright and the actress Fanny Brough (1852-1914)[6] was his sister.

Having decided on a stage career, he took the stage name Robert Brough and made his first appearance in Little Em'ly, an adaptation of David Copperfield, in Glasgow in 1870, later began working with the D'Oyley Carte No. 2 Company, where he met and married Florence Trevelyan.

The couple then moved to Australia under contract to J. C. Williamson, making their first appearance in Melbourne in the Australian première of Iolanthe. He would go on to become a notable actor and manager in Australia, touring widely in Australia, China and India, and going into a number of partnerships with other managers, such as with G. S. Titheradge, Dion Boucicault (1820-1890)[7] (for almost ten years, 1886-1896), Gregan McMahon and with Herbert Flemming.

Brough died of a heart disease in Sydney on 21 April 1906.

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

Though F.C.L. Bosman (1980) often mentions a Robert Brough, this usually refers to the writer of a number of plays performed in South Africa during the 19th century, i.e. his father, Robert Barnabas Brough (1928-1960)[8]

However D.C. Boonzaier (1923) does mention one visit to Cape Town by Robert Brough and his wife in 1904, when they appeared in the Good Hope Theatre under the Wheeler Brothers' management during February. He notes that "manliness, refinement and care" characterised all that Brough did, and describes his wife as a "finished and accomplished performer". Nevertheless, though he praises the skill and professionalism of the two performers, he - and presumably the public - did not find the choice of works inspiring, as the season consisted of two well-known plays (The Second Mrs Tanqueray and The Marriage of Kitty) and only one (rather dull) new piece (The Light that Failed).


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 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 144-5, 191, 233, 271, 365, 419

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