Opera Scotland

Mock Turtles

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Eaton Faning


Frank Desprez



First Performance: London (Savoy Theatre), 11 October 1881.

First Performance in Scotland: tbc.



The curtain-raiser was a peculiar institution in Victorian theatre - a short entertainment to warm up those members of the audience who arrived in good time for the main show. On occasion, these short works might also appear as an afterpiece - to be performed after many of the audience had departed for their last train. The most famous and enduring example is Trial By Jury, and Sullivan, without Gilbert, also had earlier success with Cox and Box and The Zoo. D'Oyly Carte, in his early years, presented a number of these generally ephemeral pieces. As with the three examples cited above, they were often used to try out young composers and writers before allowing them to work on a more ambitious scale. Young performers could also cut their teeth in these pieces - in this case, Wranglebury was created by Courtice Pounds, who would eventually succeed Durward Lely as leading tenor, while the mother-in-law was played by Rosina Brandram, who soon became the company's leading contralto.

Billed as 'An Entirely New and Original Vaudeville in One Act', Mock Turtles was one of the most successful, staying in the company repertoire in London and on tour, over several seasons. It was even published, which means that, unlike many such pieces, it has survived, even if it has not been revived. Its authors cannot be said to have repeated the career path of G & S, but, starting as the curtain-raiser for Patience on 11 October 1881, Mock Turtles was therefore among the first works to be performed at the newly-built Savoy Theatre (which had opened the night before).



Mr Wranglebury (tenor)

Mrs Wranglebury, his wife (soprano)

Mrs Bourcher, her mother (mezzo-soprano)

Jane, their maid (spoken role)


Plot Summary

Mr and Mrs Wranglebury have been married for some years, and constantly argue (i.e. they are no longer turtle doves). Some time before, when establishing his business, Mr W had borrowed money from his mother-in-law. When she comes to visit them, he assumes that she will now demand repayment. He and his wife manage to keep their tempers (becoming the 'mock turtles' of the title, and discover that they prefer this quiet life. When the maid reveals the truth about their earlier lifestyle, she is sacked for telling fibs. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Cast

 the maid
Mr Wranglebury
Mrs Bourcher
 Mrs Wranglebury's mother
Mrs Wranglebury
 his wife

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