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A Harlot's Progress

    by Dougie Blaxland


Drama Play: 'A Harlot's Progress' by Dougie Blaxland

The first ever stage version of William Hogarth’s legendary series of six paintings, 'A Harlot’s Progress' is a satirical drama which tells the tragic story of Moll Hackabout, an innocent sixteen year old, who travels to London from the country in search of employment as a seamstress.

Alone and unaware of the dangers that lurk in the city Moll is ruthlessly enticed and seduced by the notorious lecher Colonel Charteris who quickly grows bored with her and passes her on as a mistress to a wealthy business associate.

Within months she is again discarded and finds herself on the streets where she is exploited as a prostitute by the cruelly cynical Mother Needham.

A passionate affair with the infamous highwayman James Dalton offers the prospect of an alternative life but Moll’s hopes of romance and adventure are dashed when Dalton is captured and hanged.

There is a further dramatic decline in Moll’s fortunes when, heavily pregnant, she is arrested for prostitution and imprisoned in Newgate.

Her downward spiral continues after her release as wracked by poverty and disease she is deserted by everyone except her loyal friend Bobbin who nurses her through the final days of her short life.

The final scene which is set at Moll’s funeral reveals the hypocrisy of a society in which those like Mother Needham who are responsible for her downfall can only feign sorrow for her death while those like the priest who should have protected her spends the entire wake trying to seduce a pretty girl.


Full Cast: 13m, 6f & 2 m/f juniors

  • Moll Hackabout - 16-18, she comes from an unsophisticated family in the country
  • Colonel Charteris - 45+, a wealthy and well connected lecher
  • Thwackum - 45+, an unsympathetic gaoler of limited intelligence
  • William Hogarth - 40+, the 18th century painter
  • Grabsnatch - 40+, a wealthy merchant
  • Sir John Gonson - 40+, a puritanical London magistrate
  • Sludgeworthy - 40+, an indolent prisoner
  • Dr Rook - 40+, a quack doctor
  • Skullberry - 40+, a dishonest and disreputable undertaker
  • Clergyman - 35+, an ambitious but immoral priest
  • Slipalong - 35+, a fashionable roue
  • Dalton - 35+, a dashing highwayman
  • Sharpe - 35+, a gambler who cheats at cards
  • Dr Misaubin - 35+, a quack doctor
  • Mother Needham - 50+, a notorious brothel keeper
  • Bobbin - 40+, a former prostitute and friend to Moll
  • Constable - 25+, employed by Sir John Gonson
  • Mrs Thwackum - 25+,  wife to Thwackum the gaoler
  • Young Prostitute 1 - 18, Mother Needham’s young protege
  • Young Prostitute 2 - played by the actor who plays Moll Hackabout
  • Little Portuguese Boy - a young child
  • Moll’s Child - a young child
Reduced Cast: 4m, 3f & 1 m/f junior

The parts can be played by 7 adult actors and 1 child in the following combinations:

  • Moll Hackabout / Prostitute 2
  • Colonel Charteris / Thwackum / William Hogarth
  • Grabsnatch / Sir John Gonson / Sludgeworthy / Skullberry
  • Clergyman / Slipalong / Dalton / Sharpe / Dr Misaubin
  • Mother Needham
  • Bobbin
  • Constable / Dr Rook / Mrs Thwackum / Prostitute 1
  • Little Portuguese Boy / Moll’s Child

  • Preview E-Script (A Harlot's Progress)
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