Die Heks

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Die Heks (“The Witch”) is a one act play by C. Louis Leipoldt (1880-1947).

The original text

This play is considered to be the first Afrikaans play of real substance. A one-act play, set in 1425, about a Cardinal (“The Hammer of the Witches”) who finds himself set to try two women as witches – but the one woman had been his lover, the other was his daughter.

Originally written in English in 1911, reworked in Afrikaans as Die Hamer van die Hekse ("The Hammer of the Witches") and prepared for publication with some other pieces in 1920, though ultimately not published at the time.

It was finally revised and renamed Die Heks ("The Witch") and published in 1923 by Nasionale Pers (and reprinted numerous times since). The slightly melodramatic realist form chosen for this play would become a dominant model for many of the earlier 20th century Afrikaans playwrights.

C. Louis Leipoldt was awarded the Hertzog Prize for Drama for his two plays Die Heks and Die Laaste Aand in 1944.

Translations and adaptations

In 1975 André P. Brink adapted Leipoldt's play to create "a drama in six episodes" under the original title Die Hamer van die Hekse ("The hammer of the witches"). First performed in 1975 and published by Tafelberg Publishers (1976). The text dedicated to Francois Swart ("Hierdie een is vir François")

The play was translated into English as The Witch by Joseph Makka. Done as an exercise for the creative playwriting course in the Stellenbosch Drama Department. Not published, but a copy of the submitted text was found in the Stellenbosch Drama Department archive in 2022.

Performance history in South Africa

1925: Die Heks was first produced (on a double bill with Fagan's Lenie) by Stephanie Fauré and Paul de Groot on 2nd May 1925, in the Opera House, Pretoria, with De Groot and Faure in the leading roles, supported by Marguerite (later Greta) de Vos, Herman Steytler, Henri Cilliers and Elsa Niemeyer. The stage manager, make-up artist and set painter was Christiaan A. van Schaik, with the sculptor Fanie Eloff donating the dekor and helping with technical aspects. The play then went on a short tour of Transvaal, including Volksrust. Ultimately had approximately 70 performances. Performed many times since.

1949: Die Heks was performed in the Conservatorium of the University of Stellenbosch on 14 and 15 October under the direction of Marguerite de Villiers with a cast of students, including Limpie Basson.

1975: Brink's Die Hamer van die Hekse was staged by PACT in 1975, directed by Louis van Niekerk, with Francois Swart (Die Kardinaal), Eckard Rabe (Vader Placido), Don Lamprecht (Broeder Eugenio), Johan Malherbe (Di Civigni), Franz Marx (Hans Swieten), Marius Weyers (Andreas Brummer), Wilna Snyman (Elsa), Elise Hibbert (Janetta), Annette Engelbrecht (Greta), Will Roberts (Hofknaap), Christo Potgieter (Hofknaap) and others. Decor and costumes by Johan Engels.

2003: Brink's Die Hamer van die Hekse was presented by students of the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department in the H.B. Thom Theatre, directed by Niël Rademan.


Ons Vaderland 26 April 1925.

Die Heks theatre programme, 1949.

PACT theatre programme, 1975.

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

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