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Trilby is a four-act play by Paul M. Potter (1853-1921)[1]

Sometimes credited as "by Paul M Potter and George du Maurier"

The original text

Based on Trilby[2], the popular novel by George du Maurier (1834–1896)[3], which is set in Paris and tells the interlinked stories of three artists (two English and one Scottish), Trilby O'Ferrall, a half-Irish girl working in Paris as an artists' model and laundress, and Svengali, a memorable rogue, masterful musician and hypnotist. The novel was first published serially in Harper's Monthly from January to August 1894 and appeared in book form on 8 September 1895.

The novel was adapted as a play in four acts by Paul M. Potter , first produced in the United States in March 1895 where the role of "Svengali" was created by American actor Wilton Lackaye at the Boston Museum and performed at the Garden Theatre, New York, opening on April 15, 1895. A British production opened in London's Haymarket Theatre on 30 October 1895, directed, produced by and starring Herbert Beerbohm Tree as "Svengali".

Translations and adaptations

The novel has been adapted to film numerous times, beginning with Trilby (1914), a British silent film version of the play, starring Viva Birkett and Herbert Beerbohm Tree, directed by Harold M. Shaw

Performance history in South Africa

1890s: Though rather vaguely referred to by D.C. Boonzaier]] (1923), it seems to have been performed at some time in this decade (possibly by the W.J. Holloway and his company), with William Haviland in the role of "Svengali".

1902-3: Performed by Leonard Rayne and company at the Opera House, Cape Town, under the auspices of the Mouillot-De Jong Company, as part of a season of musical comedy and light opera beginning in December of 1902 and running into 1903.


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: pp. 405, 414

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