A pantomime in five scenes, the story begins in the submarine world ruled by Ichthyologia, who causes a storm that wrecks Robinson Crusoe on an island. After falling asleep on a bank, Crusoe is discovered by Coralline, a water nymph, who falls in love with him. She subsequently has him carried off to a romantic dell in the island. This displeases Ichthyologia, and he threatens to turn Coralline into water if she persists in loving Crusoe. Complications set in, however, when Crusoe meets the octoroon Zoe, who inhabits the island with Friday and a company of Christy-style negro minstrels. He falls in love with her, not knowing that she is married to Friday. This relationship is a burlesque on Dion Boucicault's The Octoroon, while the Crusoe/Coralline relationship comments on the Pageant of British Worthies, including Shakespeare, Drake, Dickens, and Punch.
Containing a number of local references, the pantomime also includes songs of operatic style and other forms. The Argus critic notes that the production is treated in a thoroughly burlesque style, particularly the negro minstrel scenes. 'To make the the thing still more incongruous', writes the critic:
'Friday ... before his capture makes a stump speech in which allusions to Victorian politics and all sorts of events, occurs. The end of it all is that Crusoe is changed into Harlequin, Zoe into Columbine, Ichthyologia into Pantaloon and Friday into Clown, after which comes the transformation scene' (25 December 1868, p.5).
In reviewing the premiere, the Empire's theatre critic accorded the overall production much praise, noting, in particular, Scott's intelligible plot, parodies, puns, and local hits, and the exceptionally good scenery produced by W. J. Wilson, 'a gentleman well-known to the Sydney public as a first-class scenic artist' (Empire 28 December 1874, p.3).
The story begins with Robinson Crusoe being torn from the arms of his betrothed, Polly, and press-ganged on the orders of Captain Will Atkins (who is also in love with Polly). With Crusoe aboard Atkin's ship, the demons Tyrant and Oppression, surrounded by their demonical slaves, hatch a plan to persecute him. Fortunately for Crusoe, Fairy Liberty manages to overhear the conspirators and 'in a pretty panorama shows how she will bring him safely through his troubles and dangers' (Empire 28 December 1874, p.3). When Crusoe is shipwrecked, he begins to lament his fate, but then meets up with four animals who not only keep him company but also help him survive. He later discovers footprints on the sand but, at almost the same time, he is discovered by a party of 'war-whooping' Sugeeans. His meeting with King Thackem-Whackem-boo and his sons Ratty Tim and Lanky Joe does not go well, and it is only through the intervention of Friday that Crusoe is saved from the Sugeeans' knives. Friday subsequently becomes Crusoe's head cook and handy man. In the meantime, Captain Atkins has also been wrecked upon the island and is in dispute with the islanders over his beautiful captive, Polly. When he finds out that Polly is on the island, Crusoe orchestrates a rescue and manages to defeat his foe in a terrific fight, thereby saving his beloved from both Atkins and the Sugeeans. The Fairy Liberty then manages to foil the evil plans of the demons Tyrant and Oppression by removing all the good people from danger and taking them to her own island home.
The incidents of the pantomime were played out in seven settings, a transformation and harlequinade:
Scene 1 The Old Jetty at Hull,
Scene 2 The Tyrant's Home (and Grand Panorama),
Scene 3 Bowers of Brilliant Beauty (and Grand Ballet),
Scene 4 The Island,
Scene 5 Crusoe's Hut,
Scene 6 The Lee Shore and Atkins' Wreck (and Grand Coconut Ballet),
Scene 7 The Island Home, and the Grand Transformation Scene.
Harlequinade - This was set in three scenes: Scene 1 A Well-known Street in the City, Scene 2 Somewhere in George Street, and Scene 3 The Grotto of Gloom.
Staged in three acts and ten tableaux, the pantomime opened with the traditional Fairy Land setting, where children dressed as elves hammered miniature anvils with little golden hammers. After the Forces of Evil are called up, the scene changes back to Earth: a nautical setting on the banks of the Thames. From here, the story follows, in a fashion, Defoe's original story, including Crusoe's embarkation, the storm and shipwreck, and the island upon which he finds himself stranded. The storyline deviates at various intervals, largely as a means of incorporating spectacle. Two such scenes are 'The Fight with the Tigers' (act 2, scene 2) and 'The Rajah's Palace' (last act), where the Rajah of Chimpanzee consents to the marriage of his daughter with Crusoe, thus bringing the pantomime to an end.
The musical program included 'Sweet Bells Say' (sung by Marie Luella), 'At My Window' and 'What is it Whispering in My Heart' (Edith Moore), 'He Got it Where the Chicken Got the Axe' and 'Ting a Ling Ting' (Bobby Watson), 'The Fighting Tailor' (Tommy Cosgrove), 'I Don't Want to Play in Your Yard' (Florrie Ranger), and 'The Band Played On' and 'The Boy in the Gallery' (Amy William and Amy Gourley). Other musical music highlights included 'The Sinbad Ballet' (performed as Crusoe departs on his voyage of discovery), 'The Trilby Ballet' (staged with 'an entirely new novelty'), 'The Cannibal Ballet', 'The Harem Ballet' (an Oriental dance), and a thirty-member hornpipe dance performed by children.
Among the numerous novelties incorporated into the narrative were 'Peter Jackson the Fighting Kangaroo' and 'Henry the Braying Donkey.' The visual spectacle saw a depiction of Crusoe's ship wrecked in the thunderstorm, with the staging including a mechanical device that allowed Crusoe to be tossed about on his raft. The harlequinade was also described as novel, being staged aboard a train that was apparently racing through the countryside. The transformation scene was titled 'Through the Mazes of Fairy Land to the Home of the Naiads.'
With no fewer than twenty-three principal performers in the cast, fourteen of whom played comedy characters, this 1917 Christmas pantomime was another hugely successful enterprise for the Fullers, running for upwards of 130 performances in Sydney and Melbourne over a four-month period.
The story concerns Robinson Crusoe, played as a distinctly bohemian character, who has returned after a ten-year incarceration on a lonely island. The incidents of the pantomime then centre on the voyage of the Pirate King to Rainbow Island, where there is an immense treasure to be had. One scene, which takes place during the voyage, involves the wrecking of Crusoe's boat by the Demon Octopus, thus giving him a chance to see the wonders under the ocean. The ship itself contains a variety of people, ranging from wowsers to adventurers. One of the features of the pantomime was the 'Globe of Death' act performed by the Staigs, which involved a motor cycle being ridden in all directions round and round the interior of a lattice-work globe.
The synopsis of scenes published in the Argus is Port of Hull, England; Road to the Seashore; Deck of the Pirate Ship; The Wreck; Beneath the Waves; The Demon's Grotto; Crusoe's Rainbow Island; Gates of Rainbowland (18 March 1917, p.7).
The synopsis of scenes held in the John N. McCallum section of the Nat Phillips Collection (Fryer Library), indicates the following:
Act 1: Scene 1. Port of Hull;
Scene 2. Toy Shop;
Scene 3. Between Decks on the Good Ship Saucy Sally;
Scene 4. Cabin of the Ship;
Scene 5. On the Main Deck;
Scene 6. Beneath the Waves;
Scene 7. The Wreck;
Act 2: Scene 1. Chinese Court of Chu Chin Chow;
Scene 2. The Beach at Discovery Island;
Scene 3. Interior of the Island;
Scene 4. On the Beach;
Scene 5. Finney's Hat Department;
Scene 6. The Beach at Discovery Island;
Scene 7. Coral Island;
Scene 8. The Corridor to the Hall of Lamp Shades;
Scene 9. The Palace of Lamp Shades.
The songs and dances written for or incorporated into the pantomime were 'Opening Chorus' (fisher girls), 'I'm Polly Perkins from Paddington Green' (Bennetto), 'Gather Around My Hearties' (Vernon), 'Fol De Rol Diddle Dol Dy' (Black and Gray), 'Oh! What a Beautiful Baby' (Bennetto and girls), 'Ho Ye Lads Ye Ho' (Mackay and Girls), 'I Hate to Lose You' (Bennetto and Raines), 'Off the Choral Island' (Raines and Girls), 'Wrap Me in a Bundle' (Baby Toppin and children), 'I'll Be Your Santa Claus' (Muir, Kennedy, and girls), 'My Wine Glass Girl' (Gray and girls), 'I'm Throwing Myself Away' (Black), 'Hurrah for the Rolling Sea' and 'Go to Sea' (Mackay and chorus), 'Hoko Moko Isle' (Jones and girls), 'Fairy Queen Song' (Muir), 'Mannequin Parade' (Gray, Muir, Bennetto, and Raines), 'Chu Chin Chow' (Harford), 'A Song of the Desert' (Jephcott), 'All Bound 'Round The Mason Dixie Line' (Bennetto and girls), 'Comic Song' (Sydney Jones), 'Lindemann's Champagne Bottles' (girls), 'She Trimmed Them all So Neatly' (Harford, Asher, and girls), 'A Song of the Rolling Sea' (Vernon), 'Dance of the Sea Shells' (solo dance by Mollie Asher), 'I'll Throw a Ring Around You' (Muir, Millette, and children).
Billed in advertising as 'A colossal collection of funny folk, gorgeous scenes and grandeur... a multitude of novelties, beautiful dresses, whimsical ideas and charming music... the show of a thousand and one delights [that is] fun for all from five to eighty-five' (Brisbane Courier 27 December 1925, p.2), the pantomime is also said to have contained 'the usual allusions to events and men of the moment and ambiguities in the best Fuller style' (Sydney Morning Herald 28 December 1925, p.4).
The action, which unfolds over two acts (sixteen scenes), including such settings as 'Davy Jones' Locker', 'Cannibal Island', 'The Wedding Palace', 'Aboard the Good Ship Nancy Lee', and 'The Palace of Rainbow Land', begins in Hull, where we meet the principal characters, Robinson Crusoe, his mother (Mrs Crusoe), Will Atkins (Crusoe's rival for the affection of Polly Perkins), Angelina (a disappointed lover and the daughter of the villainous Baron Deadbroke), Alice (the village belle), and her lover, a mate on the good ship Nancy Lee. After Crusoe sails off to seek his fortune, his ship is sunk by Will Atkins, and he finds himself stranded on Rainbow Island. It is here that he meets Friday and gets into all sorts of impossible situations involving cannibals, fairies, sea-nymphs, and a giant octopus and its ally King Microbe. Other characters include village maidens, sailors, castaways, and a cannibal king, along with acrobats, tumblers, and ballet girls.
One of the songs known to have been incorporated into the 1926 Brisbane season was the concerted number 'Baby's Rainbow Trail' (sung by Mary Laurence). A 'realistic cannibal ballet' staged in the second half of the pantomime is said to have been a replica of an actual Zulu war dance.
Starring Queenie Paul (making her first-ever appearance at the Cremorne) and Mike Connors, this version of the Robinson Crusoe story was advertised in the Brisbane Courier as 'a real pantomime, not a revue' (27 December 1926, p.2). Staged over sixteen scenes, the story begins in 'The Market Place of Hull' and ends in 'The Palace of Gold.'
The production comprised numerous musical numbers and ballets, including a French version of 'Horsey, Keep Your Tail Erect' (sung by Mike Connors) and 'Captain Mack' (Cyril James).