The Colleen Bawn, or The Brides of Garryowen

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The Colleen Bawn, or The Brides of Garryowen is a melodrama by Dion Boucicault (1820-1890)[1].

Most often simply referred to as The Colleen Bawn

The original text

The play was dramatization of The Collegians (1828), a novel by Gerald Griffin, telling the true story of Ellen Scanlan (née Hanley), a fifteen-year-old girl who was murdered on 14 July 1819 at the instruction of her husband.

The first dramatization of the novel was actually Eily O'Connor, or The Foster Brother by Thomas Egerton Wilkes (performed in London in 1831), but it was Boucicault's 1860 version which caught the the world's attention - including that of Queen Victoria. He styled his play a "domestic drama".

It was first performed at Miss Laura Keene's Theatre, New York, on 27 March 1860

Translations and adaptations

Numerous other versions of the story were also written in the same years (1860-1), no doubt inspired by Boucicault's success. Among those done in South Africa were:

Miss Eily O'Connor, called "A New and Original Burlesque founded on the Great Sensation Drama of The Colleen Bawn", and written by Henry J. Byron ()[]. It was first produced in the Drury Lane Theatre, London in 1861. (In South Africa it was billed as The Colleen Bawn on its first performance in 1861.)

For a full list of adaptations and representations based on the original story and Boucicault's play, see "Appendix I: Chronology of works drawn on the murder" in the study The Poor Man's Daughter. A return to The Colleen Bawn by Murphy & Chamberlain (Lulu.com):p.27ff[2]

Performance history in South Africa

1862: Performed by Sefton Parry's company as The Colleen Bawn, or The Brides of Garryowen in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 15, 16, 25 April, and 6 May.

1862: Byron's burlesque version (Miss Eily O'Connor) performed as a joint production by Mrs Tellett, the Cape Town Dramatic Club and the Royal Alfred Dramatic Club in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 30 September, 2, 6 and 14 October. It was however billed as The Colleen Bawn the "great sensation - musical burlesque".

1866: Performed by the former members of the Le Roy and Duret Company, managed by James Leffler, as The Colleen Bawn, with Found in a Four-wheeler (Williams) on 19 November, featuring designs by R.S. Cooper and Mrs Cooper in the leading role assisted by Marie Duret, Le Roy T. Brazier and Alex Kay.

1870: Byron's burlesque version performed on 14 December in the Oddfellows Hall as The Colleen Bawn by the Garrison Players (probably the "dramatic club" of the 86th Regiment), along with If the Cap Fits (Harrington and Yates) and The Unfinished Gentleman (Selby).

1875: Performed, as The Colleen Bawn, in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 24, 26 and 28 April.

1875: Performed again, in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 12 May ("by request" of visitors to the Cape at the time of the laying of the foundations stone of the houses of parliament) and repeated once more on 21 May.

1875: Performed in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 24, 26 and 28 April.

1875: Performed as Miss Eily O'Connor in Byron's burlesque version in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 18 August, with Catherine Howard (Dumas/Suter), and repeated twice more in the same theatre, being performed on 19 August with David Garrick (Robertson) and on 21 August with Henry Dunbar, or A Daughter's Trial (Taylor).

1876: Performed, as The Colleen Bawn, in the new Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by the Disney Roebuck company (in Roebuck's absence managed by C. Wilstone) , with an Italian ballet by "Signors Maggi and Nulli", on 3 June.

1876: Performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by the Disney Roebuck company on 28 July and 2 August.

1877: Performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and his company on 22 September.

1878: Performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and his company on 1 June.

1892: Performed apparently as The Colleen Bawn (though most likely the burlesque version of it), in the Vaudeville Theatre, Cape Town, by the visiting Emilie Bevan Comedy Company as part of a three-and-a-half month season of 20 plays which began on 8 August.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Colleen_Bawn

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dion_Boucicault

Murphy & Chamberlain. ND. "Appendix I: Chronology of works drawn on the murder" in The Poor Man's Daughter. A return to The Colleen Bawn (Lulu.com):p.27ff[3]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 112, 134, 162, 219-220, 266, 323-329, 332-3, 340-348, 360, 369, 395.

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