Also found as David Garrick, or Only an Actor.
The original play
A play about the famous 18th-century actor and theatre manager, David Garrick (1717-1779).
By Robertson's own admission the play was inspired by and in part based on Sullivan, a three-act French comedy by Anne-Honoré-Joseph Duveyrier de Mélésville (also known as "Mélesville" or "A.H.J. Duveyrier", 1787-1865) (first played in 1852). In his Preface to his "novelette" called David Garrick, Robertson mentions that Duveyrier's play called Sullivan was performed at St James's Theatre, London, by a company of French comedians, where he saw and liked it, and subsequently wrote his own English play.
Robertson's play premiéred at the Prince of Wales Theater in Birmingham, where it was successful enough to be moved to the Haymarket Theatre in London, on 30 April 1864. Published in London by S.O. Beeton, 1865, the play became a popular, offering a virtuoso role for a number of performers over the years, including Disney Roebuck, who performed it often, all over the world. In fact the value of Robertson's play has on occasion even been ascribed to Roebuck's interpretation of it, rather than to the text's inherent merits (e.g. a review in The Argus, Cape Town, on 2 December, 1873, cited in Bosman, 1980: p. 306, footnote 6).
Translations and adaptations
David Garrick. A Love Story by T.W. Robertson, is a "novelette expanded from the play" (i.e. Robertson's own play of the same title).
The 1907 musical The Beauty of Bath (Hicks and Hamilton) was loosely based on this work.
Performances in South Africa
Besides his performances in Cape Town, Disney Roebuck also took his company on tour, and would perform favourites form his repertoire in places like Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown as well - though these events are not always well documented in the press. This is also true of other performers and companies in the second half of the 19th century. Bosman (1980) , relying on D.C. Boonzaier's reminicences for the most part, usually only records Cape Town productions.
1873: David Garrick was the first play done by Disney Roebuck when he set out to tour the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces with his company (formally known as the United Service Dramatic Company) in 1873. It opened his first season in the Mutual Hall (i.e. the concert hall of the Mutual Building) in Cape Town, playing nightly, on 26-29 November, with Perfection, or The Lady of Munster (Bayly) as afterpiece.
1876: Performed as a "Complimentary Benefit for Signora Neri" in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 14 June, with a reading of "Shamus O'Brien" by Mr Fairclough - this was probably "The Ballad of Shamus O'Brien" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873). There was also a "Grand Concert" of operatic pieces, and ballet dances.
1878: Performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by Disney Roebuck and company on 11 July with Little Don Giovanni, or Leporello and the Stone Statue (Byron).
1892: Performed in Cape Town by the Potter-Bellew Company what Boonzaier calls "an interesting and attractive season", under the auspices of Luscombe Searelle, probably in the Exhibition Theatre, with Kyrle Bellew and Cora Urquhart Potter (Mrs Brown Potter) in the leading roles.
1929: It was one of the plays performed by a West End theatre company from London, led by actor-manager Gerald Lawrence, which toured South Africa and Rhodesia, putting on a portfolio of five plays. The tour played in venues owned by African Theatres Ltd. and started in Johannesburg on 1st April 1929 and finished in Cape Town on 3rd October.
Robert Kay. 2011. "Gerald Lawrence, Elgar and the missing Beau Brummel Music", The Elgar Society Journal: pp.4-28
J.S. Le Fanu’s “Shamus O’Brien” (1850), Swan River Press
The S.A. Merry-Go-Round, 2(4):28. August 21st, 1929.
Correspondence from Robert Kay of Acuta Music, Monday 13 July, 2015.
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