Marine theatre

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"Marine theatre" ("Marinetoneel" in Afrikaans) is a general term used by F.C.L. Bosman 1980) to refer to various kinds of amateur theatre and other performances specifically undertaken by officers and by sailors (both on board ship and on land), especially in the 19th century.

A range of other names used to distinguish this form of performance from other forms of military entertainment, e.g. "Royal Naval Theatre",

On other occasions the company is referred to by the name of the vessel (sometimes prefaced by "the amateurs of the").

See also Garrison Theatre

Examples from South Africa

1608: According to Jill Fletcher (quoting Keeling and Bonner) what would perhaps qualify as the first example of marine theatre was a production of (scenes from) Hamlet that Captain William Keeling had his crew perform on board his British East India Company's ship The Red Dragon, off the coast of Southern Africa in 1608, while on his way to the Cape of Good Hope.

1857-9: The Boscawen Amateurs, the name given to an amateur theatre company made up of officers from H.M.S. Boscawen, stationed in Simonstown, were quite active in Simons Town. They are first heard of when they presented The Somnabulist (Montcrieff) and Who Speaks First as a benefit evening for the Indian Sufferers Relief Fund in Simonstown on 28 December, 1857.

1859: The amateurs of the "Royal Naval Theatre" of the H.M.S. Megaera performed in in the Simon's Town Theatre on 28 March, presenting Fish out of Water (Lunn), along with a scene from Macbeth (performed "in character" by Captain Nightingale), Make your Wills (Mayhew and Smith) and The Thumping Legacy (Morton)

1865: Charity performances of The Dream at Sea and Cool as a Cucumber were performed in aid of victims of the great storm of May, by the amateurs of the H.M.S. Valorous in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 1 and 2 June - playing to sellout houses.

1869-1872: The amateurs of the H.M.S. Rattlesnake apparently performed a number of times, playing inter alia in the Oddfellows Hall, Cape Town, on 7 October 1869 in aid of the "Sailor's Home" and in the Dockyard Theatre, Simonstown, in July 1872.


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

F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik, pp. 163-5, 270, 281.

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.

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