The Fast Coach

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The Fast Coach is a farce in one act by C.J. Claridge (fl 1850s) and Robert Soutar (1830-1908)[1]

Not to be confused with The Fast Train (Maddox)

The original text

There is some controversy in the sources about this play, largely occasioned by strange entry in Allardyce Nicoll's useful History of English Drama (1975)[2], which ascribes the play to J. Soutar (Jr) and C.J. Claridge (Jr), indicating that the play was first performed at the Royal Olympic Theatre, London, in 1851, published by L.C. Lacy in the same year (in Lacy's Acting edition).

The Adelphi Theatre Project [3] however lists the play as written Robert Soutar(1830-1908) [4], but then states that it was only first performed at the Adelphi Theatre, London, in 1868, and published by Wheat in 1876. A number of later editions of the play however, all list Robert Soutar as the author as does the Wikipedia entry on him, though often with an earlier performance date or publication date. One source listing its first publication even earlier, i.e. in the collection One Acts - Farces performed at London theatres in the mid-19th century published by Samuel French/Thomas Lacy in 1850.

The The Victorian Plays Project[5] (also ascribing the play to Robert Soutar), for example, dates the first production of the work as 9 June 1851 at the Royal Olympic Theatre, London, and this is confirmed by direct evidence that a performance of the play took place in Cape Town in as early as 1860, which would seem to make the 1851 date the correct one.

What all this suggests is that either the compilers of the many latter day publications have it wrong, possibly referring to a later revival (perhaps the first at the Adelphi); or more probably that Allardyce Nicoll for once had the author wrong (possibly thinking of Robert's son, the actor and singer Joseph Frank Soutar, 1870-1962[6]). Nicoll's date for the first performance, however, makes sense because Robert Soutar actually began his own acting career in 1852, and - being a journalist - may have actually written the play earlier and seen it performed in 1851 before entering the profession himself.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1860: Performed as The Fast Coach by the Charles Fraser and his company in the Cabinet Theatre, Cape Town, on 21 March, with A Wonderful Woman (Dance). The performers included Charles Fraser, Miss Rowlands and Mr Raymond in the leads, with V. Verdict also praised.


Allardyce Nicoll. 1975. A History of English Drama 1660-1900: Late 19th Century Drama 1850-1900 Cambridge University Press: p.574[7]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.127-8

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