The Tragedy of Tragedies, or The Life and Death of Tom Thumb the Great

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The Tragedy of Tragedies, or The Life and Death of Tom Thumb the Great is a satire in two acts by Henry Fielding (1707-1754) [1].

Also known as The Tragedy of Tragedies or variations of Tom Thumb in some cases.

The original text

The satire tells the story of a character who is small in stature and status, yet is granted the hand of a princess in marriage; the infuriated queen and another members of the court subsequently attempt to destroy the marriage.

Originally written as a short burlesque with the title Tom Thumb in 1730 (appearing under Fielding's pseudonym of Scriblerus Secundus), as an addition to his play The Author's Farce, and was first produced, at Haymarket Theatre, London on 24 April 1730.

Translations and adaptations

By 1731 Fielding had reworked and expanded the play considerably and it was now performed and published under the title The Tragedy of Tragedies, or The Life and Death of Tom Thumb the Great (or at times The Tragedy of Tragedies), with the author now given as H. Scriblerus Secundus. It was first performed at Haymarket on 24 March 1731, with the companion piece The Letter Writers (Fielding) and published by J. Roberts, London, in the same year.

In 1972 Robin Malan adapted the play for South African audiences under the inverted title of Tom Thumb, or The Tragedy of Tragedies for a production he directed for CAPAB in Cape Town.

Performance history in South Africa

The early performances by the Garrison Players, where the work is styled a burlesque or a burletta rather than a satire, may have been versions of the original short play, rather than of the later, fuller, version, but this is not certain.

1807: Performed as "the burlesque of Tom Thumb" by the Garrison Players in the African Theatre, Cape Town, with The West Indian (Cumberland). Mrs Kinniburgh was among the players.

1822: Performed on 2 November as a "Burletta" entitled Tom Thumb by the Garrison Players in the African Theatre, Cape Town, as afterpiece to Speed the Plough (Morton).

1972: Performed in the Nico Malan Theatre by CAPAB, under the inverted title of Tom Thumb, or The Tragedy of Tragedies. The adaptation of the play was directed by Robin Malan, with Denis Bettesworth (Tom Thumb), Arthur Hall (King Arthur), Christopher Prophet (Merlin), Glynn Day (Lord Grizzle), Pietro Nolte/Ronald France (Noodle/Doodle), Elliot Playfair (Foodle), Steve Daitsh/Steve Gurney (Bailiff/Follower), Bill Tanner (Parson), Nerina Ferreira (Queen Dollallolla), Maggie Soboil (The Princess Huncamunca), Roger Dwyer (Glumdalca), Lynne Greenblatt (Cleora), Marion Achber (Mustacha), Gay Morris (Mustora), Simon Swindell (Ghost) and others. Designed by Penny Simpson and original music by Peter Wale.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Thumb_%28play%29

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

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [2]: pp. 72, 75, 109, 183,

CAPAB theatre programme, 1972.

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