Arsenic and Old Lace

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Arsenic and Old Lace is a murder comedy by Joseph Kesselring (1902-1967) [1].

The original text

The play was first performed on January 10, 1941, directed by Bretaigne Windust.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Afrikaans as Gif en Oujongnooiens ("Poison and spinsters") by W.H. Grobler. Published as a performance text by DALRO in 1970. (The first run of 200 copies of the DALRO text initially had the name A.F.H. van Dyk as the translator, but this was apparently then blacked out, and W.H. Grobler was substituted.)

It was adapted as an American film by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein and directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant and Boris Karloff. Released in 1944.

Performance history in South Africa

1942: Produced by Costa Couvara for the Cape Town Repertory Theatre Society, opening in the Little Theatre on 24 August 1942 starring, among ohters, Geraldine Jordi.

September 6 - 11, 1943: Produced by the SAWAS of Command 14 Entertainment Unit (Benoni) at the Standard Theatre, Johannesburg. Directed by René Ahrenson of Cape Town and starring Captain George Bollaire of the SAAF. He came to South Africa from England where he starred in Squadron X. Other cast members included Taubie Kushlick, Reginald Rawlings, Cecilia Sonnenberg, Fred Loehnen and Joel Herold. Proceeds from the concert went to the SAWAS Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund and Command 14 Entertainment Welfare Work.

1947: Performed in the Port Elizabeth City Hall May 22 - 24, directed by Raymond Davidson for PEMADS. Mrs Gibson Lochhead took the role of "Abby" and Mrs Zilla Baird played "Martha". The business managers and prop-builders were Harold Davidson and Dave Berg.

1952: Presented by East London Technical College Drama Club at St Saviour's Hall, East London, produced by Mary Howe (February).

1964: Staged (in Afrikaans as Gif en Oujongnooiens - ?) in June by the Libertas Theatre Club in The Cellar in Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, directed by Esther van Ryswyk, with Jane Turner (Abby), Marie van Heerden (Martha), John Kitson (Dr Harper), Rita Sierts-Ehlers, Fred le Roux, Piet Retief, Louis Eksteen, Pieter de Swardt and P. van Aarde.

1978: Presented by the Westville Theatre Club, directed by Steph Henley, August.


Trek 7(5):17, 1942.

The Women's Auxiliary, September 1943, pg 39.

Saturday Post, May 3, 1947.

NELM catalogue: [Collection: KORT, Maurice]: 2012. 379. 3. 31.

Arts Theatre Club archive held by George Mountjoy.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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