Ray and Cooper Company
Ray and Cooper Company is a theatrical company active in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town in the 1860s.
In 1865 Alfred Ray returned to Cape Town from Port Elizabeth with the OIO Christy's Minstrels, what F.C.L. Bosman (1980: p. 191) refers to as a self-organized group of five negro singers (perhaps he means blackface?) from Port Elizabeth. This troupe performed at the Theatre Royal in Cape Town in September 1865 under this name, in collaboration with Alfred Ray. Apparently they were not really well received in Cape Town, their work being seen as a little too vulgar, but now Ray went on to take the theatre for a more conventional season of three months with "the leading members of the late Port Elizabeth company" (Bosman, 1980: p. 191). The rest of the company included R.S. Cooper, Mrs Cooper, Mrs Ray and probably J.C. Wilks, Mr Firme, James Leffler and J. Spencer, people with whom he had worked in Port Elizabeth.
Hereafter, the company was billed as the Ray and Cooper Company. Initially their programmes continued to contain some minstrels style vaudeville acts, but after a "Grand Combination Performance: Christy's Farewell and the Dramatic Co." on 25 November 1865, they tended towards more conventional fare.
They opened the season with Jessy Vere, or The Return of the Wanderer (Hazlewood) and The Area Belle (Brough and Halliday) on 23 October (repeated on 26 October), and went on to do performances of Miriam's Crime (Craven), Villikins and his Dinah (Burnand), "Prof. Pepper's Ghost, as exhibited at the Polytechnic, London", The Harvest Storm (Hazlewood), the Bal Masqué (Minstrel show), selections from Faust and Marguerite (Carré), Which shall I Marry? (Suter), Cousin Tom (Roberts), The Virginia Mummy (White), The Lonely Man of the Ocean (Blake), The Belle of the Village (Byron), Little Jack Horner, or Harlequin A.B.C. (Mollan), A Pair of Pigeons (Stirling), The Irish Tutor (Butler), and The Secret (Morris).
On 25 November 1865 they joined forces with the OIO Christy's to offer a farewell for the Christy's company, an evening that included a Grand Burlesque, Trial of Skill or Challenge Dance by the Christy's, along with other pieces from Ray and Cooper's own repertoire.
Their final performance in Cape Town, a benefit to Mrs Cooper, took place on 15 January, 1866, in the Theatre Royal, with the assistance of "members of the various Dramatic Clubs in Cape Town". Performed were Lady Audley's Secret (Hazlewood) and "the unrivalled burlesque Extravaganza The Very Latest Edition of the Lady of Lyons (Byron)".
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