Het Hemelbed

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Het Hemelbed (lit. “The heaven bed", i.e. a canopied four-poster bed) is a Dutch play in three acts by Jan de Hartog (1914-2002) [1].

The original text

A two-hander about the trials and tribulations, laughters and sorrows, and hopes and disappointments experienced by Agnes and Michael throughout their marriage of thirty-five years, from 1890 to 1925. Written in Dutch in 1942, while De Hartog was in hiding during the war. During his subsequent war-time exile in England, he sold the rights of the English version of his own English translation as The Fourposter to Samuel French. There is mention of a London production of the play in 1949, but it is usually claimed that the real premiere of the play was 1951 Broadway production, directed by José Ferrer, which opened on October 24, 1951, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, later moving to the John Golden Theatre to complete its 632-performance run.

In later years the play was also performed in the Netherlands and the text published in Dutch in 1974.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into English as The Fourposter, by the playwright himself, the play premiered on London in 1949 and opened on Broadway in October 1951. Published by Samuel French.

An Afrikaans translation was done by Sandra Kotzé under the title Die Hemelbed. Published by the National Library (Available at Dalro [2])

Another Afrikaans translation, done from English by Fred le Roux, has the alternative titles of either Die Dubbelbed ("the double bed") or Die Hemelbed (lit. “The heaven bed").

Other adaptations include The Four Poster (a 1952 partially animated 1952 film starring Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer), an Australian TV adaptation (1964) and the musical I Do! I Do! by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (1966).

Performance history in South Africa

1954: The Fourposter was presented by the Brian Brooke Company starring English actors Michael and Dulcie Dennison. Set by Frank Graves. Toured to Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, East London, King Williams Town, Durban’s Little Theatre, Christmas season 1954.

1962: Robert Mohr directed a production by the Little Theatre Players in November.

1963: The Le Roux translation was presented as Die Hemelbed by Kaapse Streektoneel on tour to Clanwilliam, Van Rhynsdorp, Nieuwoudtville, Williston, Fraserburg and Calvinia starring Tine Balder and Pieter Geldenhuys, directed by Paul Malherbe. This production was also presented by SUKOVS in the same year.

1963: The Kotzé translation, Die Hemelbed was produced by Fred Engelen for CAPAB with Tine Balder and Pieter Geldenhuys (and Paul Malherbe?) on a tour which began on 18 November at Jan Kempdorp.

1964: The Le Roux translation, Die Dubbelbed was presented by PACT in the Intimate Theatre, Johannesburg, the National Theatre, Pretoria and toured the Transvaal. Pieter Geldenhuys directed and acted with Joan Brink. Decor by Raimond Schoop and costumes by Margaret Louttit.

1973: The Le Roux translation, Die Hemelbed was staged by PACOFS, directed by Gerrit Geertsema, with Anton Welman and Trudi du Plessis. Decor by David Sidey and costumes by Errol Ross.

1974: The Le Roux translation, Die Hemelbed was staged by PACT, directed by Carel Trichardt, with Louis van Niekerk and Reza de Wet. Decor and costumes by Johan Engels.

19**: The Le Roux translation, Die Dubbelbed was staged by NAPAC, directed by Pieter Geldenhuys, featuring Dale Cutts and Jeanette Hanekom. Decor by Doug Fairall and costumes by Lucille Cross.




Inskip, 1972.

Brooke 1978. 250.

Kaapse Streektoneel programme, 1963.

PACT report, 1963/64.

PACOFS theatre programme 1973.

PACT theatre programme 1974.

NAPAC theatre programme (undated).

Grütter, Wilhelm, CAPAB 25 Years, 1987. Unpublished research.p 15.

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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