The Thimble Rig!

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The Thimble Rig! is a farce in one act by John Baldwin Buckstone (1802-1879)[1].

(Also referred to simply as Thimble Rig or (the) Thimble-rig.)

The original text

The thimble rig[2] in the title refers to what is also known as the "shell game"[3], a sleight-of-hand a confidence game in the victim takes a bet that he can find under one of three thimblelike cups that the operator has shuffled about.

First published in London at the National Acting Drama Office in 1837. It was performed by the author and his company on 3 October, 1844, at the Haymarket Theatre, though apparently to no great acclaim.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1851: Performed as Thimble Rig in the Garrison Theatre by the Amateur Company on Wednesday 3 December, as afterpiece to Caesar de Bazan, or Love and Honour (Webster and Boucicault). The performance was in aid of "(S)ufferers by the Kaffir War[4]" (i.e. the British colonial war against the Xhosa being fought on the eastern border of the Cape Province in the period).

1860: According to Bosman (1980) it was performed as The Thimble Dig [sic], or The Artful Dodge by Sefton Parry and his company in the Cape Town Theatre on 16 April, with The Lost Ship (Townsend) and a dance by Miss Powell. This seems to be an error on the part of Bosman, conflating The Thimble Rig! (wrongly spelled as "Thimble Dig") and The Artful Dodge (a farce in one act by E.L. Blanchard (1820–1889)[5] ), into one play, crediting it to Buckstone. It is probable that both plays were done that evening.


The Literary Gazette and Journal of the Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c (Saturday 5 October, 1844). London, W.A. Scripps: p. 645 (Google E-book)[6]

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [7]: pp. 401-3, 420

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 1932. (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: pp. 79, 203-205

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