W.F.H. Parker

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Puppeteer, magician and impressario.

Performances in Cape Town

In 1837 he impressed Cape Town audiences with his huge, life-size Automaton figures - his presentations described as "Mechanical and Picturesque Theatre of Arts" (Bosman, 1828: p. 231). It “worked automatically through wires, ropes, steam” or someone inside the huge puppets. It was one of the first recorded puppet displays in Cape Town. Shows included Polander (5 December 1837), The Enchanted Turk, Children in the Wood and Trip to Brentford. In 1838 the company took their show to Stellenbosch, Worcester, Swellendam, George and Uitenhage, in 1839 they were in Grahamstown.

By 1848 Automata was back in Cape Town but their run ended there. In that year Parker leased the Drury Lane Theatre for one season as manager, intending to present the New English Theatrical Company (also referred to as Parker's Company in some sources) in a season of light dramas and operas. However, they only performed Luke the Labourer in January 1849 before harsh critique by Sam Sly caused the company to close down. In 1850 they performed at the Victoria Theatre (Hope Street Theatre) and the year after they were back at Drury Lane Theatre, after which they seemed to disappear from the scene. [TH, JH]


See Bosman, 1928;

Du Toit, 1988;

Fletcher, 1994

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