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Deathwatch (French: Haute Surveillance) is a play written by Jean Genet (1910-1986) [1] in 1947, performed for the first time in Paris at the Théâtre des Mathurins in February 1949 under the direction of Jean Marchat. Three prisoners are locked up in the same cell. Green-Eyes (Yeux-Verts) has killed a woman and is to be guillotined. Maurice and Lefranc are sentenced for more minor crimes. Maurice has a deep attachment to Green-Eyes, as does Lefranc, but secretly. He also hates Maurice, while feigning to hate Green-Eyes, preferring him to Snowball (Boule-de-Neige). Snowball himself is also condemned to death (his presence in the play is only evoked, not actual) and along with Green-Eyes they are considered the Kings of the prison. In fact their sentence traps them in a solitude and an immense unhappiness which lends them a certain dignity. Lefranc who is constantly in conflict with Maurice––especially because of Green-Eyes's woman that both of them desire––ends up strangling him so as to join Green-Eyes in his solitude and dejection.

The original text

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1975: PACOFS starring Christopher Consani as Lefranc.

1977: The Studio, Baxter Theatre, 1977 directed by Dawie Malan, starring Marthinus Basson (Maurice), Bill Curry (Green Eyes), Chris Galloway (Lefranc), Jeroen Kranenburg (The Guard).

1992: Directed by Geoffrey Hyland with UCT students at the Grahamstown Festival 1992.


Wikipedia [2].

Speak: Theatre Arts Journal, 1(1):44. December 1977.

Barrow, Brian & Williams-Short, Yvonne 1988.

If This is a Man theatre programme, 1996.

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