The original text
Loosely based on the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu, a male Peking opera singer and inspired by Giacomo Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly.
The action of the play takes place in a Paris prison, 1989, and in recall, the years 1960-1986 in Beijing and Paris.
The play premiéred on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on March 20, 1988, winning the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play and closing after 777 performances on January 27, 1990.
Published by Plume and in an acting edition by Dramatists Play Service, and Penguin Publishers in 1993.
Translations and adaptations
Hwang adapted the play for a 1993 film directed by David Cronenberg with Jeremy Irons and John Lone in the leading roles.
Performance history in South Africa
1989: First performed in South Africa 1 October at the Alhambra Theatre, Johannesburg, presented by Pieter Toerien by arrangement with Stuart Ostrow and David Geffen. Directed by Robert Whitehead directed with Sean Taylor, Jeremy Crutchley, Chris Buchanan, Gina Benjamin, John Whiteley, Charlotte Butler, Christine le Brocq and Gideon de Wet and Warren Philips alternating as Kurogo. The director assisted by Gina Benjamin, lighting design by Jannie Swanepoel, set design by Patrick Noomé, costumes designed and co-ordinated by Margo Fleisch. Music by Giacomo Puccini  and Lucia Hwong.
1990: The production at the Theatre on the Bay on 20 January.
1991: Produced by Helen Mann for CAPAB and the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival at the Port Elizabeth Opera House, September 16 - 21. Starring Yvonne Howell and Nicky de Jager (Kurogo Props People), Jeremy Baylis (Rene Gallimard), Karel Leerink (Song Liling), Brett Adkins (Marc/Man 2/Consul Sharpless), Linda-Louise Swain (Renee/Woman at Party/Girl in Magazine), Bob Law (M. Toulon/Man 1/Judge), Marlene Pieterse (Comrade Chin/Suzuki), and Helen Wilkins (Helga).
M. Butterfly theatre programme, 1990.
Go to ESAT Bibliography
Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays
Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays
Return to PLAYS III: Collections
Return to South African Festivals and Competitions
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page