The Silver King

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The Silver King is a melodrama by Henry Arthur Jones (1851-1929)[1] and Henry Herman (1832-1894)[2].

The original text

A celebrated play from the late 19th century, which William Archer believed it to be "quite the best of modern English melodramas." The play was popular for more than 40 years, and had numerous performances all over Europe, America, South Africa, India and Australia.

First performed in London at the Princess's Theatre, on November 16, 1882 and in New York at Wallack's Theatre on 27 January, 1883.

Translations and adaptations

The play was adapted and filmed twice, first as a 1919 silent film directed by George Irving and starring stage star William Faversham (the film now lost)[3] and second as a 1929 British silent film directed by T. Hayes Hunter and starring Percy Marmont, Harold Huth and Chili Bouchier.[4]

The stage text translated into Afrikaans as Die Silwer Koning in 1931.

Performance history in South Africa

1885: Performed as The Silver King in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, produced as his last production by the then lessee Mr Henry Harper for a run of four weeks, opening on the 4th of May. The cast was led by H.C. Sidney and also featured Alice Norton, Sutton Vane, Jacques du Toit, Herbert Harries, Robert Bolder, Henry Harper, Charles Wilstone, Constance Young, Emily Seyton, and Kate Leechman.

1885: Performed as The Silver King in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, produced by the new lessees, Mr H.C. Sidney and partner Mr H.J. Fiedler, as part of their repertoire during the course of the year.

1891: Performed as part of a season of plays put on in the Vaudeville Theatre, Cape Town, by a newly founded scratch company. In this production, "Nellie Denver" was performed by Lilla Wilde.

1892: Performed 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.

1900: Performed by the Herbert Flemming Company as part of an extended season in the Opera House, Cape Town.

1901: The Silver King was staged in the Port Elizabeth Opera House by the Joseph Ashman Company in February , by arrangement with Leonard Rayne.

1910: Produced by Leonard Rayne and his company, as part of their repertoire of six plays, opening at the Standard Theatre, Johannesburg, and then touring the various cities, including a performances at the Opera House, Cape Town, in April. The cast featured P.A. Gawthorn as "Wilfred Denver".

1931: Performed in Afrikaans as Die Silwer Koning by the Hanekom-Van Zyl Geselskap while on tour, partly under the auspices of African Theatres. Besides the normal cast of Hendrik Hanekom, Mathilde Hanekom, Wena Naudé and Willem van Zyl, it introduced a child star, Sylvia Robertson, and Jac. J. du Toit to the South African public.


Facsimile version of Samuel French's 1907 edition of the text, The Internet Archive[5]

The Daily Advertiser, February 5, 1901.

Barrett H. Clark. 1915. The British and American Drama of Today. New York: Henry Holt and Company: pp. 36-39, as cited in the Theatre Database website[6]

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, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.381, 394-5.

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