Robinson Crusoe Programme for Drury Lane Theatre

Robinson Crusoe Programme for Drury Lane Theatre

The 1881 production of Robinson Crusoe was the most expensively produced pantomime to date. It had an orchestra of 30, 150 dancers, 260 children and 'supers' (extras), and a total staff of 700 or 800. Considerable licence had to be taken with Daniel Defoe's original story in order to incorporate all the traditional elements of the Christmas pantomime, and one journalist noted that 'Defoe would not be likely to recognise his own story if he could witness it represented at Drury Lane'. Man Friday, the black native whom Crusoe befriends in the book was played by Charles Lauri – a white actor blacked up and masked, whose comic performance was described as 'nimble and graceful'. Many Victorians had little idea of the difference between African and Indian cultures and the two were freely mixed in the play. The tribe of 'cannibals' from whom Friday is rescued dance an Indian ballet, and 'they march to an old Hindu air that is very appropriate'.