Black-Eyed Susan, or All in the Downs

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Black-Eyed Susan, or All in the Downs is a comedy in three acts by Douglas Jerrold (1803–1857)[1].

Sometimes simply referred to as Black-Eyed Susan, Black Eyed Susan, Black-Ey'd Susan and so on.

The original text

Based on John Gay's well known ballad by that name, it has been described as "a nautical melodrama (with all its stock characters) that praises the patriotic British tar (sailor) while critiquing authoritarianism in the British Navy"[2], it was the playwright's Jerrold's first successful play, opening at the Surrey Theatre on 26 January 1829 and setting a new record of over 150 performances. It is a key play in the history of English melodrama, and became a stock play across the Empire, also in South Africa, till well into the 20th century.

Translations and adaptations

An American version, published in 1856 by William V. Spencer, Boston, is apparently an adaptation, as it is called "A nautical and domestic drama, in two acts" (1856), based on the "carefully marked copy" of a performance in the Boston Theatre.

Black-Eyed Susan, or The Little Bill That Was Taken Up is a burlesque of Jerrold's play by Burnand.

Performance history in South Africa

1829: First performed in Cape Town by H. Booth and local amateurs on 10 November as an afterpiece to Pizarro, or The Death of Rolla (Sheridan), with Booth as "William".

1858: Performed (under the full title) by Sefton Parry and his company on 17 June in the Cape Town Theatre. Also performed was Buried Alive, or The Illustrious Stranger (Milligan and Kenney).

1861: Performed as Black-Ey'd Susan by Sefton Parry and his company on 19 September in the Theatre Royal, with To Oblige Benson (Taylor).

1866: Performed as Black-Ey'd Susan by Le Roy and Duret Company on 28 June in the Theatre Royal, with Charles the Second, or The Merry Monarch (Duval).

1874: Performed in the Mutual Hall, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck's company on 28 February, with Our Wife (Morton).

1875: Performed in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck's company on 13 April, with Black Sheep (Yates).


Facsimile of the 1856 Boston version, Internet Archive[3]

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. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [4]: pp. 209-10, 242, 406.

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 68, 70, 73, 94,99, 110, 134, 211, 214-5, 312-3, 322-3, 326, 329-331, 334, 336, 340, 349, 360, 364.

William Groom. 1899-1900. Drama in Cape Town. Cape Illustrated Magazine, 10(4): 478-481, 517-520, 547-552, 580-584, 640-643, 670-672, 706-708.

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