Die Van Aardes van Grootoor

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Die Van Aardes van Grootoor ("The Van Aardes [lit: those of the earth] of Great Ear") is a play by Pieter-Dirk Uys (1945-).

Subtitled "'n Epiese verhaal in 780 episodes, 5 bedrywe en 2 landstale" ("an epic tale in 780 episodes, 5 acts and 2 national languages").

The original text

An iconic Afrikaans play, satirising Nationalist politics, it started out as a one-act sketch, created and performed by Uys and and Trix Pienaar as part of the anti-censorship revue Strike Up the Banned at the Space Theatre in Cape Town.

Thereafter, it was developed as a full length play with a large cast enacting the incidents in the various scenes, and was first performed in The Studio at the Baxter Theatre on 26 November 1977, then rewritten and performed in Die Laager, a newly constructed venue at the Market Theatre, on 20 September 1978.

The latter text was formally published by Taurus in 1979.

The play became very popular and has been performed widely since then (often in newly adapted form to suit the politics and sentiments of the times).

Translations and adaptations

The text was re-written by Pieter-Dirk Uys before the production that opened at the Market Theatre on 20 September 1978.

Performance history in South Africa

1975: The first version, a one-act sketch created and performed by Uys as part of the anti-censorship revue Strike Up the Banned, performed at the Space Theatre in Cape Town.

1977: Dawie Malan, Chris Galloway and Bill Curry formed the nucleus of an experimental theatre group called Fringe and performed the play as a full-length play to a small audience in The Studio at the Baxter Theatre at the end of November, opening on the 26th, directed by Malan, with Antoinette Kellermann, Mary Dreyer, Chris Galloway, Bill Curry, Lida Botha and Marthinus Basson.

1978: Staged (with a slightly adapted text) in Die Laager at the Market Theatre, where it played for an astonishing 18 months (as the venue's opening production). After this it moved to the main Market Theatre in July 1979. Directed by Dawie Malan, with Antoinette Kellermann (Dolla van Aarde), Rina Nienaber (Mimi Degenaar & Brenda Botha), Magda Beukes (Ouma Degenaar & Elana van Aarde), Pieter-Dirk Uys (John Firestone Jnr. & Tertius van Aarde), Nomsa Nene (Ou Aia & Klein Siena & Madame Daphne Quazilezi) and Jacques Malan (Fanie van Aarde & Evert van Graan). Other actors who also took part during the run at The Market include Chris Galloway, Bill Curry, Marthinus Basson, Richard van der Westhuizen, Eon de Vos, Elize Cawood, Johan Botha, Lida Botha, Zaza Vorster and Allan Dyssel.

1984: Directed by James Blanckenberg for the University of Cape Town Drama Department at the UCT Arena, Hiddingh Campus in August. Antoinette Butler assisted as director and the cast members were Shirley Ellis, Bernadine Strutt, Susan Dall, Jamie Bartlett, Paul Savage, Gideon de Wet, Isadora Verwey and Robert Finlayson.

1987: Staged by PACT, directed by Louis van Niekerk, with Christine Basson (Dolla), Lida Meiring (Ouma Diegenaar/Elana), Nomhle Nkonyeni (Aia/Siena/ Madame Quazilezi), Ronel Kriel (Mimi/Brenda), Frans Kalp (John Firestone/Tertius) and Gert van Niekerk (Fanie/Evert). Design by James MacNamara.

1992: Restaged by Pieter Toerien at the Theatre on the Bay and the Leonard Rayne Theatre in a new, markedly updated, version featuring Casper de Vries, Trix Pienaar, Lizz Meiring, Grethe Brazelle, Motshabi Tyelele, Andrew Wilson directed by Pieter-Dirk Uys.

2004: Taken to various festivals in a production directed by Anthony Wilson, with a Cape Flats cast including Denise Newman, Lee-Ann van Rooi, André Samuels, Irvine van der Merwe, Nomkhita Bavuma and Lindie Stander.

2009: Staged at Evita se Perron in Darling as part of the ongoing Perron Drama Project, again directed by Uys, with Jo-Anne Delport, Sari Vlotman, Ella du Plessis, Frits van Ryneveld, Omnia Grobler and Owen Britz.

2012: A new version directed by Albert Maritz featuring Marion Holm, Esther von Waltsleben, De Klerk Oelofse, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Noxolo Bodlani and Pierre van Heerden.


Two of Antoinette Kellerman's performance copies of the original full-length text ( signed by the author) found in the Stellenbosch Drama Department archives in 2022. The one bound copy includes small textual changes, including cuts/adjustments to some of the more overt racial and sexual terms (presumably made before the Market Theatre production) and copies of three Cape Town reviews from 1977, by W.S. Kaplan (The Argus), "K.B." (Die Burger) and Glennifer Gillespie (The Cape Times). The other text also has a range of alterations over the course of the Cape Town run, including a full rewrite of the fifth act on 20 November 1977, signed by the author.

A bound copy of the published text based on the adapted Market Theatre text, (Taurus, 1979), including two copies of the programme (with cast names) for the 1992 Pieter Toerien production, found in the Stellenbosch Drama Department archives in 2022.

Market Theatre programme, 1978.

PACT theatre programme, 1987.

Die Van Aardes van Grootoor programme notes, 1992.

KKNK programme, 29 March-6 April 2013.

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

Cape Times, 23 November 2009.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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