Desire under the Elms

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Desire under the Elms [1] is a 1924 play by American playwright Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) [2]. A classic play about love and desire in a rural American family. One of the great plays of the 20th century, it was first performed by the Proivince town Players in Greenwhich Village in 1924, starring Walter Huston. Also published in America in 1924. The first film, starring Sophia Loren, Burl Ives and Anthony Perkins, was made in 1958. ***

The original text

The play was inspired by the Greek myth of Phaedra, Hippolytus, and Theseus.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Afrikaans as Begeerte (“Desire”) by Nerina Ferreira.

Translated into Afrikaans as Begeerte onder die Olmbome (“Desire under the Elm Trees”) by (???).

Performance history in South Africa

1938: Desire under the Elms was presented by the Cape Town Repertory Theatre Society at the Little Theatre in July, directed by Kurt Baum.

1951: Presented by the Mercury Players in Johannesburg, produced by Isadore Karr. Set designed by Ronald Phillip. Cast includes Doreen Mantle, John Rutherford, Derrick Forman, Roy Cousins and Ernest Ginsberg.

1973: Begeerte, the Ferreira Afrikaans translation, was staged by PACT in the Arena Theatre in Johannesburg, directed by Barney Simon, with Aletta Bezuidenhout (Abbie), Carel Trichardt (Ephraim) and Marcel van Heerden (Eben).

2006: Janice Honeyman adapted the Afrikaans text to a South African environment in her 2006 production for the KKNK and the Baxter Theatre, design by Birrie le Roux, music by Royston Stoffels and starring Marius Weyers, Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Jan Ellis.

2014: Performed in the Golden Arrow Studio at the Baxter Theatre 9-26 July. Transposed from O'Neill's New England setting to the Eastern Cape in the 1890s, directed by Fred Abrahamse with Mbali Bloom, Robin Smith and Marcel Meyer.


Inskip, 1972. p.123. (1938 production).

The Rand Daily Mail 9 April 1951 (Mercury Players production, 1951).

PACT theatre programme (undated)

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

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