Dramatic Club

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The Dramatic Club, Grahamstown

Amateur dramatic society founded in 1864. (See Du Toit, 1988) [JH]

The Dramatic Club, King William’s Town

Founded in 1862, performed at the Prince Alfred Theatre. They resented the rival military performers (Garrison Players), accusing them of “puffing” (and being called “muffs” in retaliation). (Fletcher, 1994) [TH]

The Dramatic Club, Port Elizabeth

According to Jill Fletcher (1994, pp.79-81) a Port Elizabeth Dramatic Society was formed in the early 1840s, most probably performing in various found venues, including The Lyceum, a wood and iron store they had fitted up as performance venue with "a primitive stage and quaint scenery". The society was temporarily dissolved in 1858. F.C.L. Bosman (1928, pp. 508-9) adds that on the 26 August 1853 a "new Theatre" that had been built by subscription opened in Port Elizabeth, opening with a production of She Stoops to Conquer (Goldsmith) and Did You Ever Send Your Mother to Camberwell? (Coyne) - probably an erroneous reference to Did You Ever Send Your Wife to Camberwell? by Coyne. Margaret Harradine (1995) suggests that this refers to a venue called the New Theatre, situated in Whites Road (and also known as the Theatre Royal or The Barn, Barn Theatre or The Old Barn), and had in fact been constructed by the Port Elizabeth Dramatic Company, not a "Dramatic Society" or "Dramatic Club".

Fletcher then continues by saying (pp.93-4) that some members of what she refers to as a "re-constituted Dramatic Club" reappeared in 1862. It is uncertain whether this is a reference to the defunct Port Elizabeth Dramatic Society or another society. According to her some members joined forces in 1862 and raised enough money to build an own new theatre in White’s Road, one Fletcher now refers to as the White's Road Theatre. F.C.L. Bosman (1980, p. 138) also has a reference to the existence of a "P.E. Dramatic Club" (or "Port Elizabeth Dramatic Club"in Port Elizabeth circa 1861-1864 (a period when Sefton Parry and Clara Tellett both visited the coastal city with their performers and used the facilities and performers of the local organizations.) Like Bosman, P.J. du Toit (1988: p. 30) also maintains that there was a Port Elizabeth Dramatic Club active as an amateur dramatic society in the early 1860s, a time when Port Elizabeth was considered to be the second most important centre for theatre in South Africa. Like Fletcher, he suggests that the Club may have been a revival (and renaming) of the Port Elizabeth Dramatic Society

It was led by a "most enterprising and assiduous manager, himself a manager of no mean repute" (Bosman, 1980: p.296 suggests itm may have been Mr St George, an amateur formerly from Cape Town), and from 1863 onwards, at the height of its active life, it was staging performances fortnightly. Often they did so in partnership with Howard and A.S. Cooper, formerly of the Parry company, Mrs Cooper now emerging as costumière of the company.

One specific example noted by Du Toit is a performance on September 23, 1867, of a locally written historical play by a Port Elizabeth Dramatic Club "at considerable expense in dresses and general mounting") called The Treasure at the Woody Cape, or The Days of Ryk van Tulbach. It had been written by the local postmaster and playwright, Alexander Wilmot, presumably a member of the club or society.

Margaret Harradine (1995) suggests that Fletcher's to a theatre is actually a reference to a venue called the New Theatre, situated in Whites Road (and also known as the Theatre Royal or The Barn, Barn Theatre or The Old Barn), and in fact constructed by the Port Elizabeth Dramatic Company, not a "Dramatic Club". The theatre was initially leased to Sefton Parry for a period of three months and opened with a performance of Grist to the Mill (Planché) on 2 June 1862.



F.C.L. Bosman. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [1]: pp. 508-9

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.138, 182, 296-299.

P.J. du Toit. 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica: pp. 30

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg: pp. 79-81; 93-4.

Margaret Harradine. 1994. Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the End of 1945. Port Elizabeth: E.H. Walton Packaging (Pty) Ltd.

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