The Playboy of the Western World

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The Playboy of the Western World is a three-act comedy written by J.M. Synge (1871–1909)[1].

The original text

The play is set in Michael James Flaherty's pub in County Mayo during the early 1900s and tells the story of the Christy Mahon, a young man running away from his farm, believing he has killed his father with a spade, and his relationship with the barmaid "Pegeen Mike", Flaherty's daughter.

Today considered one of the great plays of the 20th century, despite the fact that it is particularly well known (and also difficult to perform outside of Ireland) for its use of the poetic, evocative words and rhythms of the what is referred to as "Hiberno-English"[2], heavily influenced by the Irish language, as Synge celebrates the lyrical speech of the Irish.

First performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on 26 January 1907, resulting in riots occurred during and following the opening performance of the play because of the play's contents which many perceived as an offence to public morals and an insult against Ireland. Similar events happened during the early productions in the USA.

Translations and adaptations

The play is one of the classic plays of the twentieth century and has been adapted and translated many times.

International adaptations and translations

See the many sources on this work, including the Wikipedia entries on the play[3] and the playwright[4].

A South African versions

Die Vryersklong by Jan Crafford

An Afrikaans translation and adaptation for radio by Jan Crafford.

The text broadcast nationally on the SABC programme Meesterdrama on 27 June 1961, directed by Monica Breed (1923-2021).

Bobaas van die Boendoe by André P. Brink

Freely adapted into Afrikaans by André P. Brink (1935-2015) as Bobaas van die Boendoe ("Top-Dog of the Bundu"). Brink relocates the Irish play to a "coloured" fishing community on the Western Cape coast, and uses the local Afrikaans dialect nowadays referred to as "Kaaps", in the same lyrical way Synge uses his "Hiberno-English" dialect.

The text was first performed by PACOFS in 1972 and published by Human & Rousseau in 1973.

South African performance history of all stage versions

In South Africa The Playboy of the Western World is seldom done in the original, given the difficulties of Synge's use of the Irish dialect, but it is well known in published form and in performances of André P. Brink's brilliant Afrikaans adaptation of the work, which has been produced many times by both professional and amateur companies, as well as by university students and schools.

1961: Die Vryersklong broadcast nationally on the SABC programme Meesterdrama on 27 June , directed by Monica Breed (1923-2021).

1963: The Playboy of the Western World presented by PACT in the Civic Theatre, Johannesburg and the National Theatre, Pretoria and taken on tour, September -November. Directed by Victor Melleney, with a cast that included James White, Arthur Hall, Siegfried Mynhardt, Fiona Fraser, Patricia Sanders, Patrick Mynhardt, Ronald Wallace, Taffy Griffiths, Ziona Garfield, Reinet Maasdorp, Paddy Canavan, Richard Daneel and others. Settings by Cazik Dubinski, costumes by Gladys Haupt.

1971: The Playboy of the Western World presented by the Rhodes University Drama Department, directed by Beth Dickerson for starring Chris Weare, Janet du Plessis, Anthony Akerman, Heather Murie and Lois Butlin.

1972: First produced in Afrikaans as Bobaas van die Boendoe by PACOFS in the Civic Theatre, Bloemfontein, directed by André P. Brink, starring Trudie Taljaard, Anton Welman, Louise Mollett-Prinsloo.

1976: The Playboy of the Western World presented by CAPAB, directed by David Crichton, with Lois Butlin, Nicholas Ellenbogen, Philip Godawa and Peter Krummeck in the cast.

1980: Staged as Bobaas van die Boendoe by PACT, directed by Louis van Niekerk, with Amor Tredoux (Magriet Vlooi), Pierre van Pletzen (Seef Stilstype), Jan Prinsloo (Migiel Vlooi), Eric Nobbs (Joppie Pens), Christo Gerlach (Jimmy Flinters), Gerben Kamper (Kris Kaiing), Christine Basson (Waailit Willekat), Riana Wilkens (Sera Fyndraai), Bettie Kemp (Bekkie Bodem), Annalise Bosch (Soesie Snuif), Trudi Lamprecht ( Antjie Asjas) and Don Lamprecht ( Oubaas Kaiing).

1985: Staged Bobaas van die Boendoe by PACOFS in the Civic Theatre (??), Bloemfontein.

1992: Produced Bobaas van die Boendoe by the Bellville Afrikaanse Toneelvereniging (BAT), directed by Johan van der Merwe

1995: Produced Bobaas van die Boendoe by the Breughel Teater in Stellenbosch and at the KKNK, directed by Ben de Haeck.

2003: Produced Bobaas van die Boendoe by the drama students of the University of the Free State in , directed by Niel van Niekerk in the Wynand Mouton Theatre.

2010: Produced Bobaas van die Boendoe by drama students of the University of the Free State , directed by Nico Luwes in the Scaena Theatre.


Copy of the typed SABC radio text of Die Vryersklong (Crafford), as broadcast nationally on 27 June 1961. Found in the Stellenbosch Drama Department archives in 2022.

PACOFS Drama 25 Years, 1963-1988.

PACT report 1963/64.

The Argus 12 April 1976.

PACT theatre programme, 1980.

Die Volksblad, Tuesday 16 September 2003[5]

Toneelvereniging dring deur na eindronde, Die Burger, 1 October 1992[6]

Klein Karoo Fees stel vol program bekend, Die Burger, 11 February 1995[7]

Temple Hauptfleisch, Carnival Shakespeare...(etc), Shakespeare in Southern Africa Vol. 3, 1989.90-101.[8]

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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