Dick Whittington

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Dick Whittington can refer to a popular character of English folklore and pantomime, or to the very many play texts based on the story.

The character Dick Whittington

The story of Richard Whittington (c. 1354–1423), a wealthy merchant and later Lord Mayor of London, has become part of English folklore in the guise of the story of Dick Whittington and His Cat, which describes Whittington's rise from poverty-stricken childhood with the fortune he made through the sale of his cat to a rat-infested country. It is however totally fictional, with little evidence to support the story of the cat, but the tale has provided a popular theme in British pantomime and other performance forms, especially at Christmas time.

(For more on the character and the fable, see the entry on "Dick Whittington and His Cat"[1] in Wikipedia for example.)

The play texts

Written and published stories about the character date from the early 1600s till today. The first known drama text appeared in 1604–5, though only known by its title. Sinced then plays, puppet plays, pantomimes, films etc have proliferated - usually titled Dick Whittington and His Cat or simply Dick Whittington. The first recorded pantomime version seems to have appeared in 1814 and featured Joseph Grimaldi as the Dame.

Among those known to have been done in South Africa are:

Whittington and his Cat, or Harlequin Lord Mayor of London by E.L. Blanchard (1820 - 1889)[] written for performance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London in 1875 as was the 26th Grand Comic Christmas Annual.

Known texts by South African authors, include Dick Whittington by Geoff Tansley (presumably the theatre reviewer Geoffrey Tansley);

Plays, puppet performances, pantomimes etc. about Dick Whittington performed in South Africa

It is for the most part extremely difficult to pinpoint the particular text used or the author in most cases of performance. Often of course - as is practice in pantomime - the script was simply devised in performance, based on the skills and specialty acts of the particular performers. So the performances below are listed according to the title chosen, and where the names authors are given, these are listed. However, most of what appears below may be considered a creation by the particular director/company.

1884-5: Whittington and His Cat, or Harlequin Lord Mayor of London (Blanchard) performed as Dick Whittington and His Cat by the Henry Harper Company in the Theatre Royal Cape Town as part of their first season there.

1917: Whittington and His Cat, or Harlequin Lord Mayor of London (Blanchard) produced by Dan Thomas at His Majesty’s Theatre in Johannesburg, with Horace Green.

1946: Dick Whittington (Tansley) performed by the Ashley Street Primary School at Cape Town's City Hall, produced by Freda Druker and Cornelia Conradie, June 1946, with Basil Leach, George Veenendal, Bernard Hess, Yusuf Jakoet, Johaar Mosaval.

1952: Dick Whittington (Tansley) produced by ACT, directed by Frank Rogaly in 1952. The visiting British actor Terry-Thomas (1911–1990)[2] starred in the show as "Honourable Idle Jack"[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.

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.380.

Trek, 10(26):22, 1946.

Theatre programme (ACT production) held by NELM: [Collection: FARMER, Anthony]: 2007. 18. 13. 1417.


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