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Reigen is a German play by Austrian dramatist Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931)[1].

Sometimes also referred to as Der Reigen in some sources, the play is perhaps best known internationally by, and more frequently performed under, its French title, La Ronde.

The original text

Originally written in German in 1896-97, the play consists of ten sketches - ten private meetings between ten couples. It scrutinizes the sexual morals and class ideology of its day through a series of encounters between pairs of characters (shown before or after a sexual encounter). By choosing characters across all levels of society, the play offers social commentary on how sexual contact transgresses boundaries of class. Schnitzler's play was not publicly performed until 1920, on 23 December 1920 in Berlin and 1 February 1921 in Vienna. The play elicited violent critical and popular reactions against its subject matter.

The titles of the play—in German Reigen and in French La Ronde refer to a round dance, as portrayed in the English nursery rhyme "Ring a Ring o' Roses"[2]. Hence the frequent use of the notion of a merry-go-round in some of the titles of adaptations and translations.

Translations and adaptations

International versions

Translated into English a number of authors, including Eric Bentley, often retaining the French title.

Once the play was out of copyright for a while, a large number of wide-ranging adaptations were made of the work. Numerous film adaptations have also been made of the play over the years, beginning with The Merry-Go-Round by Richard Oswald (1920) (See the Wikipedia entry on La Ronde[3] for instance.)

The play was also adapted as a German opera in ten scenes called Reigen by Philippe Boesmans to a libretto by Luc Bondy and was premiered at La Monnaie, Brussels in 1993.

South African adaptations

Adapted into English as The Eternal Dance by Brian Astbury.

Translated into Afrikaans by James Blanckenberg, titled Liefdeskringloop ("love cycle").

Translated from the German into Afrikaans by Arnold Blumer with the title Mallemeulwals ("merry-go-round waltz").

Performance history in South Africa

1978: The Eternal Dance, the adaptation by Brian Astbury was directed, designed and lit by him at The Space (Cape Town) in 1978, starring Gillian Burl, Andrea Fine, Peter Fourie, Errol Hart, Bill Jervis and Corinne Willoughby. Costumes by Birrie le Roux.

1985: Liefdeskringloop, directed by James Blankenberg, assisted by Shirley Ellis, was performed at the UCT Arena in May/June 1985. Costume and set design by Marthinus Basson. Cast members were Alexandra Murphy, Mark Fleishman, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Robert Finlayson, Sandi Schultz, Lionel Newton, Susan Dall, Gideon de Wet, Isadora Verwey, Mark Hoeben.

1987: La Ronde performed as a Baxter Theatre/Chacma production directed by Mark Legward starring himself with Odette Leat, Gaye Barbour, Tim Mahoney, Kathy Clark, in an adaption by Legward.

1998: Mallemeulwals performed at the Oude Libertas Theatre in Stellenbosch in January, directed by Ilse van Hemert, with Sandra Prinsloo and Ian Roberts and dancers Samantha Pienaar and Lanon Prigge. Lighting designer and stage manager Kobus Rossouw, costumes by René Fourie. The same production was staged in the Thabong Theatre at The Civic in February 1998 and at the KKNK later in 1998.

2013: Performed at the UCT Arena, Cape Town, directed by Jacqui Singer with University of Cape Town drama students.


World Drama by Allardyce Nicoll. Harrap, 1949.

Astbury 1979.

Liefdeskringloop programme, 1985.

Barrow, Brian & Williams-Short, Yvonne 1988.

Mallemeulwals theatre programme, 1998.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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