The Floating Beacon, or The Norwegian Wreckers

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The Floating Beacon, or The Norwegian Wreckers is a nautical melodrama in two acts by Edward Fitzball (1792–1873)[1].

The play is credited to Edward Ball in some versions and in a preface to the published text he is also referred to as "Mr Ball".

Also found as The Floating Beacon, or Norwegian Wreckers, The Floating Beacon, or The Wild Woman of the Wreck and in shortened form as The Floating Beacon.

The original text

According to the author, the text was apparently influenced by a summary he had read of The Light Tower, a German tragedy by an unnamed author (Burwick, 2015: pp. 220-221)[2]. The text he is referring to was most probably Der Leuchtturm ("The lighthouse", 1821) a so-called ("Fate-tragedy") by Christoph Ernst von Houwald (1778-1845)[3]

Fitzball's own play was first performed to great success under the original the title of The Floating Beacon, or The Norwegian Wreckers in the Surrey Theatre, London, on 19 April 1824. The text was printed by and for J. Lowndes in 1824.

In 1840 published in New York as The Floating Beacon, and credited to "Edward Ball", by Turner and Fisher and later (in 1850?) as The Floating Beacon, or The Wild Woman of the Wreck (credited to "Edward Fitzball"), by T.H. Lacy, London, as Vol 75 of Lacy's acting plays.

Translations and adaptations

South African productions

1833: Performed in Cape Town in the African Theatre by the All the World's a Stage (as The Floating Beacon) on 13 July, with The Six Simpletons, or The Press Gang (a "ballet dance"), The First of April (Boaden) and a new pantomime, Clown and Goose, performed by Mr Charles West.

1858: Performed as The Floating Beacon in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town, by Sefton Parry and his company, as part of his new season.

1862: Performed in the Garrison Theatre, Keiskama Hoek, on October 18 by the Amateurs of the Band as The Floating Beacon or Norwegian Wreckers with a cast consisting of F. Girton (Angerstoff, Captain of the Beacon), J. F. Gay (Maurico, his companion), T. Patterson (Ormoloff, his companion), T. Smith (Weignstadt, a fisherman), J. M'Kechnie (Frederick, a supposed orphan), W. Allan (Jack Junk, a British sailor), J. Davies (Mariette, woman of the Beacon), P. Mulrennan (Christine, Weignstadt's daughter). Also presented was Wanted, 1 000 Spirited Young Milliners For the Gold Diggings! (Coyne).


Facsimile version of The Floating Beacon, or The Wild Woman of the Wreck (Lacy edition), Hathi Trust Digital Library [4]

Frederick Burwick. 2015. British Drama of the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge University Press[5]

Larry Stephen Clifton. 1993. The Terrible Fitzball: The Melodramatist of the Macabre. Popular Press[6]

William Groom. 1899-1900. Drama in Cape Town. Cape Illustrated Magazine, 10(4): 478-481, 517-520, 547-552, 580-584, 640-643, 670-672, 706-708.

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [7]: pp. 226-7

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 68, 512

North Lincoln Sphinx Vol 1, No 14. December 10th 1862.

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