The Braziers

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The Braziers (fl 1860-1870) is the joint name frequently used to refer to Thomas Brazier and his wife, known simply as Mrs Brazier, and later their son, Fred Brazier (born 1863).

The Braziers

The couple seem to have come to South Africa in 1861, with Thomas as a member of a new company brought out on a one year contract by Sefton Parry, for two seasons opening in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 13 May and lasting till 14 November, followed by a short season Port Elizabeth, before returning to Cape Town for another few months. When Parry left for Port Elizabeth once more in June, Brazier and some of the other actors remained behind in Cape Town, he keeping himself occupied with "dramatic readings" from the works of Shakespeare, Scott, Lytton and Sheridan Knowles. Often accompanied by the singer James Leffler, they appeared in the City Hall as well as various suburbs of Cape Town, including Wynburg, Rondebosch and Greenpoint.

Thereafter the Braziers appeared for Clara Tellett's company, when she took over the Theatre Royal from Parry, leasing it till 16 December. Mrs Brazier now joined her husband, making her first appearance in Cape Town on 23 June, and also performing dances as interludes. Unfortunately, owing to various factors, the ensuing season was not a great success it seems. With the demise of Mrs Tellett's company in 1862 and her departure, the Braziers stayed on in Cape Town owing to the pregnancy of Mrs Brazier, opening a restaurant and theatre venue in The Round House, Cape Town. They remained active in South Africa till at least 1871, undertaking their own productions (including a period in Port Elizabeth between 1864-1870), serving as occasional performers for the Young Men's Institute and Club Dramatic Company (which Thomas Brazier had founded and ran for a while) and making further appearances for the companies of Leroy and Duret (1866) and Sefton Parry once more (1869).

The couple's son, Fred Brazier (1863-?), also makes an appearance in the period after 1868, mentioned as playing the young "Prince Arthur" in presentations of scenes from the play King John (Shakespeare) featuring his parents.

In 1870 The Braziers were back in Cape Town, where he founded, and was manager of and director for, the Young Men's Institute and Club Dramatic Company.

Mrs Brazier (fl 1860s)


Mrs Brazier (fl 1860-1870) was an actress and dancer, said in Clara Tellett's publicity to "be from the Theatre Royal, Glasgow", and was married Thomas Brazier. However, one critic was not very impressed, writing about the production of The Old Chateau, or A Night of Peril (Coyne) in Het Volksblad, referred to her soft voice, saying she had good moments, but venturing the opinion that she must have been a minor actress in Glasgow.

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

Bosman (1980) states that Mrs Brazier made her first appearance as actress and dancer in Cape Town on 23 June, 1862, with the performances of Madeleine (Stirling) and My American Cousin, or A Slight Misunderstanding (by "A Gentleman of Cape Town"). He lists her as by name as performing interpolated acts for the company company in 1862 (e.g. a "Medley Dance" on 30 June and a dance 3 July), as well as acting in some of the plays, despite her rather soft voice.

Having fallen pregnant, she seems to have retired from the stage for a while, before reappearing as an occasional actress for her husband's Dramatic Readings after the birth of Fred Brazier in 1863. She gradually became more active again, acting in supporting roles for Leroy and Duret (1866-7), James Leffler (1866) and Sefton Parry (1869). She is later also named as an occasional performer for the Young Men's Institute and Club Dramatic Company, run by Thomas Brazier, active in Cape Town between 1869 and 1871.

Thomas Brazier (?-1871)

Thomas Brazier (fl 1860s, died 1871) was an actor active in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in the 1860s and early 1870s.

Also billed as T. Brazier or Mr Brazier.


According to R.W. Murray (1894, cited in Bosman, 1980, p.101) ) he was a good exponent of Shakespearian tragic roles and an actor for Charles Kean at the Royal Princess Theatre, London, for eight years, before parting with Kean and being recruited by Sefton Parry for a new touring company in 1861. According to both Royal Holloway University's catalogue of The Lord Chamberlain’s Plays 1852-1863 and The Victorian Plays Project it was licensed for performance by the Lord Chamberlain's office as Living Too Fast, or A Twelvemonth's Honeymoon on 31 July, 1854, first performed in Princess's Theatre, London on 9 October, 1854 under that title.

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

Brazier and his wife arrived in South Africa with the company in 1861, and he was soon considered a senior performer for Sefton Parry during the 1861 and 1862 seasons, inter alia playing "Don Manuel" in Giralda, or The Invisible Husband (), "King Tyrannus" in Robinson Crusoe, or The King of the Caribbee Islands () and "Rob Roy" on various occasions). He was also quite popular with the public apparently and received two benefit evenings, the first on 10 October, 1861 (including performances of The Rose of Ettrick Vale and Family Jars), before the season closed on 14 November and the second on 28 March, 1862, (including performances of Rob Roy Macgregor, or Auld Lang Syne (Pocock) and The Dancing Barber (Selby). The company also had a brief season in Port Elizabeth between November 1861 and January 1862.

Brazier is described by the press of the time as a young man whose fine elocution typified him as the "ardent lover" and "a man and gentleman" (reviewer in the Cape Argus, cited in Bosman, 1980, p.101). He and C. Bland were also considered the "intellectuals" in the company, who gave occasional lectures in the Mechanics' Institute (e.g. Brazier with a lecture on Hamlet and accompanying recitals in November, 1861). One review also mentioned that he had appeared before the British Royal Court on no less than eleven occasions.

Brazier went on to become a leading actor for Clara Tellett and her company in 1862, described by a critic as "an experienced and painstaking actor, a worthy member of a distinguished profession" (cited by Bosman, 1980: p. 137). In this period (1861-2) he also worked with local amateur companies, for example performing for the Cape Town Dramatic Club and the Royal Alfred Dramatic Club on occasion.

When Tellet's company folded and his wife fell pregnant, Brazier began (unsuccessfully as it happens) to seek work as a tutor, teacher of elocution, corresponding clerk, or any other suitable employment, and ultimately became the lessee of The Round House in Camps Bay, where the child was born in May of 1863. Brazier ran the property as a restaurant and entertainment venue, and by the start of 1864 he was advertising it as The Round House Hotel. On 4 April he also tried his hand as the lecturer for a presentation of Henry Harper's Diorama of Holland and the Rhine in the Theatre Royal. However, he does not seem to have been a competent or informed lecturer, his "self-acknowledged incapacity and excentricity [sic]" leading to his dismissal.

Returning to the safer ground of play-readings and straight theatre, he a presented a series of Dramatic Readings, appearing every alternate Monday in the Cape Town City Hall between 4 July and 7 November of 1864. The seven plays in the series were Knowles's The Hunchback, Bulwer-Lytton's The Lady of Lyons and five plays by Shakespeare: Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, King John and Much Ado about Nothing.

Besides the readings he also produced and performed in a few plays at the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, in the same year, featuring him and his wife, along with some amateur members of the old Cape Town Dramatic Club. He was also billed as "stage manager". Among the pieces performed were Still Waters Run Deep (Taylor), Living Too Fast, or A Twelve Month's Honeymoon (Troughton), The Turned Head (Beckett), Time Tries All (Courtney) and The Irish Post (Planché).

On 12 December, 1864 there was a farewell for the Braziers, who were leaving for Port Elizabeth to continue their careers there.

In 1866 The Braziers were back in Cape Town, now performing for the Le Roy-Duret company (1866-1868), for two seasons in the newly refurbished Theatre Royal in Harrington Street, with a repertoire that included Lucretia Borgia, Fazio, The Green Bushes, Flowers of the Forest, Governor van Noot, The Lady of Lyons, Hamlet, Othello, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Guy Mannering, Romeo and Juliet and other pieces. The engagement ended when the theatre burnt down at the start of 1868. Thomas Brazier was considered the leading male actor for the company, while his wife is said to have vastly improved as actress, being meticulous and competent in supporting roles. The couple were given a benefit performance by the company on 12 November, 1866, featuring A Bachelor of Arts and Cramond Brig, or The Gudeman of Ballangrich (which would be come a popular work for the company in the next season).

Brazier next appeared in a short season by for James Leffler (November and December 1866), before he rejoined Le Roy's Original Company when it once more opened a season in Cape Town in January 1867, including a performance of the locally written piece Municipal Muddles, or Love in the Dark. He apparently augmented his income with more of his occasional Dramatic Readings for the Young Men's Institute in Cape Town.

At the end of the 1966-7 season in May, Thomas Brazier left the Cape on the American warship Sacramento, Thomas having been appointed a schoolmaster on it, while his family remained behind in Cape Town. He was back with his family in August however, the ship having foundered, though all on board were saved. He rejoined Le Roy-Duret company for the remainder of 1867 and much of 1868, both as actor for the whole period and billed as "Stage Manager" for the third part of the season, and is mentioned in various theatrical endeavours in 1868-9.

Besides occasional appearances for other companies (e.g. R. Webster's production of All that Glitters is not Gold), 1870 saw Brazier becoming more actively engaged with the activities of the Young Men's Institute, where he now founded the Young Men's Institute and Club Dramatic Company (active 1870-1871) as a spin-off of the institute, probably in the light of the success of the Young Men’s Institute Amateur Christy’s (1867-1870). He was both the manager of and director for the combined amateur and professional company, and one of its leading actors and in many ways a mentor for a new generation of performers in the city. It would for a while be considered the dominant company in Cape Town and began with a season of plays under his management in the Institute Assembly Hall running from 4 May 1870 to 19 December, 1870.

By September Brazier had fallen ill, and a farewell benefit planned for him that month was cancelled, to be replaced by a sick benefit for the critically ill man on 19 December. After his passing in January, 1871, another benefit performance, this time for the widow and children of Brazier, was held by members of the Legislative Assembly (also referred to as the Parliamentary Company) on 28 July 1871.

Brazier's passing effectively signaled the end of the Young Men's Institute and Club Dramatic Company as well.

Fred Brazier or Master Brazier (1863-)

Presumably the same person, the son of Thomas Brazier and his wife, born in Cape Town in 1963, he is twice mentioned by F.C.L. Bosman (1980: pp. 252 and 334), once referred to as Fred Brazier when playing "Prince Arthur" in his father's production of scenes from King John in 1870 and again in 1875, now referred to as Master Brazier when he appeared as "the child" in Disney Roebuck's production of East Lynne.


F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik.

Cape Illustrated Magazine. 1890-1901. Articles by W.G. Groom.

R.W. Murray. 1894. South African Reminiscences. Cape Town.

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