Wheeler Theatre Company

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The Wheeler Theatre Company was founded in Cape Town in May 1886 by impressario Ben Wheeler (Benjamin Wheeler, "the Gov'nor") and his son Frank Wheeler, two actor managers who focussed on musical comedy or comic opera which included farce, and minstrel programmes (on occasion referred to in playbills as "negro absurdities").

The company and the father-and-son business are both also referred to as Ben and Frank Wheeler, the Wheeler Brothers, The Wheelers, on occasion, and sometimes in partnerships woith other managers, e.g. as the Wheeler-Edwardes Gaiety Company

They came from Australia??**/England??** , to become among the foremost theatrical managers in South Africa in the period before the Anglo-Boer war.

In 1886 Luscombe Searelle was with the company for a year. Among other venues, they used the Good Hope Theatre and the Theatre Royal in Burg Street for their shows. The Hawtrey Comedy Company performed Charley's Aunt under the Wheeler Theatre Company management at the Good Hope Theatre in 18**

In 1887 they brought a new company to Cape Town to play in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town in April and May. Consisting of a cast chosen by their manager, Frank Weston, and for the most part directed by Sutton Vane, a new appointee with the company, their repertoire included Dandy Dick (Pinero), The Harbour Lights (Sims and Petitt), The Schoolmistress (Pinero), The Workman (Towers), My Sweetheart (Maeder and Gill), Two Orphans (D'Ennery and Cormon), Lady of Lyons (Bulwer-Lytton), Confusion (Moore) and Peril (Saville and Bolton).

1895: They presented the company of W.J. Holloway at the Lyceum Theatre, Johannesburg with Hamlet (Leonard Rayne as "Hamlet").

1896: Hamlet done by the Ben Wheeler Theatre Company in Cape Town (Leonard Rayne once more playing "Hamlet").


Sources

D.C. Boonzaier, 1980. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

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

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.

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