Love and the Hyphen

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Love and the Hyphen is a farce in three acts by Stephen Black (1879-1931).

The original text

A farce about a number of social climbing Capetonians, from all walks of life.

First performed at the Tivoli Theatre in Darling Street, Cape Town, on 16 November, 1908, the play was an immediate success. It was reworked in 1910 and often performed across the country till the 1930s. Among the venues used were the Standard Theatre and His Majesty's Theatre in Johannesburg, and the Tivoli Theatre in Cape Town.

Only published in 1984, when it was included in Stephen Black: Three Plays, a collection of Black’s plays edited by Stephen Gray, also containing Helena's Hope, Ltd and Van Kalabas Does His Bit (Ad Donker 1984).

A manuscript and typescript copy of the 1908 version play (almost complete) is included in the Black collection in the Africana section of the South African Library in Cape Town. A complete typescript copy of the 1928 version is held in the Strange Collection at the Johannesburg Public Library.

Translations and adaptations

In February of 1911, what Boonzaier (1923) calls "a weak and attenuated" variation on the play by Black (called Japie's Courtship and written by an author calling himself "Mowbray-Kloof") was produced in the Opera House, Cape Town - but to little success it seems.To what extent it is actually an adaptation of the earlier play, rather than an original work simply based on the theme of Black's play, is unknown, as the text seems to be lost.

Performance history in South Africa

1908: Performed by a company brought together by Stephen Black and Frank de Jong, the play opened at the Tivoli Theatre in Darling Street, Cape Town on 16 November, it had a good run, later transferring to the Opera House for five nights, and later returning to the Tivoli Theatre, before going on a national tour, playing at the Standard Theatre in Johannesburg and in Rhodesia. The production returned to Cape Town in Easter 1909. The cast of that first production included George Paget, Amy Pennington, Irene Harnott, Bob Mathew (as "Sophie") and Charles Leonard (as "Van Kalabas"), Iago Clifford (as "Hay-Whotte"), Mr Zoli as "Miss Pampoenkop". Cast changes during the first run included Keith Johnson as "Orvil Austin", Dora Nazeby as "Lady Mushroom" (replacing Irene Harnott)

1910-1912: The production (with different casts and re-writes) was revived several times.

1928-1929: A completely revised version was mounted. Performed in the Standard Theatre in Johannesburg (1929), with Dudley Williams (as the corporal). This version includes a prologue and postscript and is seen as a much more thoughtful, challenging and troubled play about race relations, class distinctions and the balance of racism against nationalism in the emerging new South Africa. This five act version was published by Stephen Gray in 1984.


D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.428-435.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue, including:

A list of characters for a production at His Majesty's Theatre, date unknown. (NELM: [Collection: GRAY, Stephen]: 2008. 49. 2. 8. 4. 4.

Theatre programme for a production at the Standard Theatre, date unknown. (NELM: [Collection: GRAY, Stephen]: 2008. 49. 2. 8. 4. 7.

A photocopy of caricatures by D.C. Boonzaier of the cast while it was being performed at the Tivoli Theatre , from The Cape of 20.11.1908. (NELM [Collection: FLETCHER, Jill]: 2005. 75. 19. 60. 8).

Stephen Gray (ed.) 1984. Stephen Black Three Plays. A.D. Donker.

Stephen Gray. 1981. "Stephen Black A Selection", English in Africa 8 No.2 (September 1981)

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