Der Besuch Der Alten Dame

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Der Besuch Der Alten Dame ("The visit of the old lady") is a German tragicomedy by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990)[1].

The original text

A classic play about revenge, telling of a woman who returns to the village after the war to seek vengeance.

First performed in German as Besuch der alten Dame at Schauspielhaus Zürich, in 1956.

Translations and adaptations

Adapted and translated into English as The Visit by Maurice Valency and had its first Broadway theatre production, in 1958, directed by Peter Brook and starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

Translated into Afrikaans as Die Besoek van die Ou Dame ("The visit of the old lady") by Bartho Smit in 1962 and published in Bartho Smit: Vertalings 2 by Haum-literêr.

A localized English South African adaptation, set in "a little provincial town somewhere in South Afrrica" and entitled The Visit, was written by an unnamed author.

Numerous adaptations have been made over the years, including a 1964 film with Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn, directed by Bernhard Wicki and a 1971 opera, with a libretto by the author and music by Gottfried von Einem. (For more on the adaptations, see the Wikipedia entry at ).

Performance history in South Africa

1962: Presented in Afrikaans as Die Besoek van die Ou Dame by Die Johannesburgse Afrikaanse Toneelkomitee at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre in 1962, with Anna Neethling-Pohl in the lead, directed by Fred Engelen. Also in the cast were Jan Schutte, Designs and set were by Kobus Esterhuysen.

1963: Produced in English as The Visit by Albert Thomas for the Peninsula Dramatic Society at the Labia Theatre from 11 to 16 February 1963.

1966: Presented in English as The Visit by CAPAB, opening 13 October 1966 at the Hofmeyr Theatre directed by the New York director Stanley Waren [2] starring Babs Laker, Johann Nell, Phillip Boucher, visiting British actor Michael Mellinger, Alan Prior, Michael Newell, Eric Brundl, Yvonne Bryceland, Glynn Day, Norman Ettlinger, Pietro Nolte, Norman Coombes and others. Decor and costumes by Michael Clarke.

1994: Performed as The Visit by Magnet Theatre

2018: Performed as The Visit on 14 to 16 June by trainee performers of Magnet Theatre at the Old Match Factory, their theatre, on the corner of Lower Main and St Michael’s Roads in Observatory, Cape Town. Co-directed by Mark Fleishman and Warona Seane, with Abigail Mei, Andiswa Anthony, Asamkela Ketelo, Bonga Tshabalala, Carlo Daniels, Luxolo Mboso, Siyavuya Gqumehlo, Palesa Mohlala, Rene Brown, Siphesande Mkokose, Sivenathi Macibela, Sizwe Lubengu, Songezo Mtshixa, Sityhilelo Makupula, Vela Leon Zozo, Kamva Obose and Yvonne Msebenzi. Set and costume design is by Craig Leo, lighting design by Mark Fleishman and Themba Stewart and musical direction by Shaun Karssen.


Flyer for the Johannesburg Civic Theatre inaugural festival in 1962.

Material collected by Gladys and Albert Thomas held by NELM: [Collection: FLETCHER, Jill]: 2005. 75. 21. 9 and The Argus 13 February 1963. (Labia production).

Die Loodswaaiers programme, 1966.

The Visit theatre programme, 1966.

A copy of the typed text of the localized version of The Visit, found in the Stellenbosch Drama Department archives in 2022.

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