Drury Lane Theatre
The Drury Lane Theatre was a theatre on Constitution Hill, Cape Town, active from 1843 till about 1851.
Built in response to the loss of the old African Theatre, it was initially to have been be called the Royal Victoria Theatre, but eventually retained the name of its location in Drury Lane, instead. Initial plans for its construction were mooted as early as 1841, but were abandoned until 1845 when a new campaign (led by Sam Sly and others) was started. This paid dividends when construction was started in 1846. it was a small theatre built on a piece of ground bought from (or leased from?) a mr William White and situated at the corner of Drury Lane and Constitution Streets in 1843, "by a company, Mr H. Carpenter and two others" , (most probably Petrus Cauvin and John Francis Long). It was to be constructed in such a manner that it could be turned into dwelling houses, if need arises.
After long delays in building caused by the Border Wars, it was finally opened in 1847, when Parker's Company played there. (Fletcher (1994), however, says it was opened opened on June 19 1848 with a performance by the French Theatrical Company - possibly the one managed by Dalle Case, on a visit from Mauritius, with their vaudeville and circus acts.)
In 1848 William White , who had apparently kept some shares in (or the ownership of the theatre) for himself, put the theatre and its large collection of costumes and sets up for sale, along with his other Cape properties, as he was emigrating. The theatre was apparently then bought by L.P. Cauvin for £235.
It was never a popular venue, and although it was fairly well-used (due to a lack of alternatives), by 1850-51 it was being eclipsed in facilities and popularity by other Cape Town venues, and finally ceased functioning as a theatre venue at the end of 1851.
They were followed by Mr W.F.H. Parker and the New English Theatrical Company, who leased it for one season, to produce light dramas and operas. He was followed by James Lycett and his family, who did a season, possibly Sefton Parry, Parker again (1850) and finally Albert French (May-June 1851). It was later sporadically utilized by various groups such as Tot Nut en Vermaak (1843?*-1858, according to Laidler, 1926) and Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst (1851).
Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.
P.W. Laidler. 1926. The Annals of the Cape Stage. Edinburgh: William Bryce.
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