Ici on Parle Français

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Ici on Parle Français ("Here we speak French") is an English farce in one act by Thomas John Williams (1824-1874)[1]

Sometimes found as Ici on Parle Français, or The Major's Mistake or wrongly written as Ici on Parle Francais.

The original text

First performed at the Adelphi Theatre, London in 1859.

Published as Issue 297 of French's minor drama, by Samuel French

The title given as Ici on Parle Français, or The Major's Mistake in the new 1889 publication of the text by H. Roorbach, New York.

Translations and adaptations

In 1891 a mimed burlesque version of Williams's play, called Ici on (ne) Parle (pas) Français ("Here we (do not) speak French") and described as "a farce without words", was devised and performed by the comedian J.L. Toole (1830–1906)[2], who had performed in the original Williams play over a 1300 times. Ici on (ne) Parle (pas) Français, with deliberately incongruous musical accompaniment by W. S. Robins, was first played by Toole in Toole's Theatre, London, 13-27 June, 1891 and repeated in 1892.

In his 1980 publication, F.C.L. Bosman ascribes the play Ici on Parle Français done in South Africa to the musician "W.S. Robins" on one occasion (p. 361), and also lists it thus in his Index. Since he never mentions Williams as the author, the book seems to suggest that all the performances of the work were the burlesque version - which is not true, since the burlesque was only performed in 1891, long after the South African performances listed by Bosman.

Performance history in South Africa

1861: Performed as Ici on Parle Français by Sefton Parry and his company in the Theatre Royal on 1 July, with The Bonnie Fishwife (Selby) and The Rough Diamond (Buckstone)

1861: Performed by Sefton Parry and his company in the Theatre Royal, Harrington Street, Cape Town, on 4 July, as afterpiece to Rob Roy Macgregor, or Auld Lang Syne (Pocock).

1861: Performed as Ici on Parle Français on 14 October in the new Theatre Royal, Cape Town by the Sefton Parry company, followed by Aladdin, or The Wonderful Lamp.

1868: Performed as Ici on Parle Français by the Lanarkshire Dramatic Club (amateur players from the 99th Regiment) in the Garrison Theatre, Cape Town, on 21 October, with The Irish Post (Planché), Irish songs by Lieutenant Tanner and a song ("The Long-tail'd Blue"") by "the infant phenomenon".

1876: Performed as Ici on Parle Français on 12 May in the Athenaeum Hall, Cape Town, by the Disney Roebuck company, as afterpiece to Robert Macaire (Byron).

1877: Performed as Ici on Parle Français (here wrongly ascribed to "W.S. Robins" by Bosman) on 8 October in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by the Disney Roebuck company, as afterpiece to The School for Scandal (Sheridan), as a benefit for E.V. Sinclair and Maude Clifford.



Online Books by Thomas J. Williams, The Online Books Page[3]

Facsimile version of the 1889 text, The Internet Archive[4]

The Era Almanack and Annual, 1892: p.68, Google E-book[5]

The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, Volume 71, 1891. John W. Parker and Son, Google Books[6]


Tracy C. Davis. 2012. The Broadview Anthology of Nineteenth-Century British Performance Broadview Press: p.562, , Google Books[7]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 99, 262-3, 339, 361

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