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Saturday, February 25, 2012


The first public record in the colony of New South Wales of a man who appears to be my great great grandfather, George Mawbey, is mentioned in a newspaper advertisement in April 1833 for a performance at the Theatre Royal in Sydney.
The Theatre Royal in George Street was the first non-amateur, professional theatre in Australia.
It was founded by Mr Barnett Levey, brother of a convict, who started an amateur theatre in his pub, The Royal Hotel in Pitt Street, before building his own theatre behind it in George Street.
He had to overcome religious objections to the establishment of a professional theatre by residents of the colony who thought it would not be morally good for its mainly convict residents.
Governor Darling refused to give him a licence, but his successor, Governor Bourke, did.
The first performance at the Theatre Royal, the theatre's opening night, occurred on 26 December 1832.
[Source: HAT - History of Australian Theatre website]
It appears that my great great grandfather, George Mawbey, joined 'the company' of the Theatre Royal's actors four months later in April 1833.
The actors were paid a basic wage, with the principals allowed to stage 'benefits' to bring in more money for themselves.
Australia's first playwright, Charles Harpur, was one of the earliest actors at the Theatre Royal, but appears to have been a better writer than performer.
There are several newspaper advertisements in 1833 for Theatre Royal productions in which George Mawbey performed.
They contain four spelling variants of the name 'Mawbey' - Mawby, Maybey, Maybry and Mawbey.
On Saturday 27 April 1833, a 'Mr Mawbey' appeared in a new performance called 'Honest Thieves', playing the part of Mr Story [elsewhere 'Colonel Storey'].
The Sydney Monitor, Wednesday 24 April 1833
On Saturday 27 April ... HONEST THIEVES ... Mr Story - Mr Mawbey
On Wednesdays 12 and 19 June 1833, a Mr 'Mawby' sang The Canadian Boat Song, a Scottish lament about Highlanders forced to immigrate to Canada.
He did so accompanied by the acting company's leading actor, Mr Dyball, and another male actor, Mr Cooper, a business partner of Barnett Levy.
Mr Mawby had top billing:
The Australian, Sydney, Friday 24 May 1833
          The Canadian Boat Song
          By Messrs Mawby, Dyball & Cooper.

The finale, a nautical melodrama called Black Ey'd Susan or All in the Downs, had, according to the same advertisement in The Australian of 24 May 1833, a Mr 'Maybry' playing the part of 'Yarn'.
According to an advertisement in The Australian on Friday 21 June 1833, Mr Maybey played the part of 4th Mulateer in 'The Mountaineers' at The Theatre Royal on Saturday 22 June 1833.
Preliminary internet research has revealed that the two plays and song he performed were 'big deals'.
And that Sydney audiences were being treated to some of the best theatrical material available in England at that time.