French Theatre in South Africa

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Broadly speaking French Theatre in South Africa can refer to three things:

Productions of theatrical works in the original French language

Productions of plays and other performance work in French has been a somewhat sporadic affair. Such productions did flourish briefly in Cape Town at the beginning of the 19th century (1803-6), under the French supported Batavian Republic, when Cape Town had a number of French visitors as well as a French Garrison, when Cape Town became known as "Little Paris". However, for the most part such events have been reliant on visiting companies and performers, the work of French teachers and University French Departments and university associations, authors of French or Belgian extraction (e.g. C.E. Boniface), amateur enthusiasts, and formal French organizations such as the Alliance Française[1] and the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS)[2].

Theatre companies and venues dedicated to French plays and performances

A number of local and visiting companies have, over the centuries, dedicated themselves to aspects of French culture in South Africa and the performance and/or discussion of French plays and films. Many of these have the word "French" (or the translated equivalent) in their name.

Among such companies and venues mentioned in ESAT are:

Fransch Blyspel Gezelschap

Een Fransch Gezelschap van Liefhebbers van het Theater

Het Fransche Liefhebbery Geselschap, Cape Town

Franse Geselskap

Franse Amateurs

French Amateur Company, Cape Town

French-Dutch Amateurs, Cape Town

French Dramatic Artistes, Cape Town

The French Theatre, Cape Town

French Theatre Company, Cape Town

French Theatrical Company, Cape Town

Honi Soit qui Mal y Pense

Performances of French theatrical works in translation

Productions of plays originally written in French have been enormously popular in translation on the other hand, such works having been translated into a number of the South African languages[3], and many of the performances becoming iconic events in the history of the theatre in the country.

Among the many playwrights whose works have been translated and performed in South Africa are Marcel Achard, Jean- Fernando Arrabal, Marcel Aymé, Pierre Barillet, Jean-Jacques Bernard, Marc Camoletti, Paul Claudel, Jean Cocteau, Pierre Corneille, Jacques Deval, Marguerite Duras, Georges Feydeau, Jean Genet, Paul Géraldy, Jean Giraudoux, Edmond Gondinet, Jean-Pierre Grédy, Sacha Guitry, Eugène Ionesco, Bernard-Marie Koltès, Jean de Létraz, Claude Magnier, Eduardo Manet, Pierre de Marivaux , Marcelle Maurette, Octave Mirbeau, Molière, André Obey, René de Obaldia, Claude-André Puget, Yasmina Reza, André Roussin, Victorien Sardou, Jean-Paul Sartre, Robert Thomas, Bayard Veiller, and Louis Verneuil.

To find the names of individual plays translated or performed:

Use the Search function (in space at the top right of this page; or type Alt-F) and using the name of the author and/or name of the play as key word for the search.

To find productions and translations of the individual French plays

Search for the title in:

South African Stage Plays

South African Radio Plays and Serials

South African Television Plays and Series


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [4]

Jill Fletcher, 1994,865

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