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Medea by Euripides (431 BC)

The original text

A play based upon the myth of Jason and Medea and first produced in 431 BC. The plot centers on the barbarian protagonist as she finds her position in the Greek world threatened, and the revenge she takes against her husband Jason who has betrayed her for another woman. Euripides produced Medea along with the lost plays Philoctetes, Dictys and the satyr play Theristai, winning the third prize (out of three) at the City Dionysia festival for that year.

South African productions of Euripides's text

The original play

1866: Performed on 26 March in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by the Le Roy-Duret Company featuring Marie Duret as "Medea", with Turn Him Out (Williams) as afterpiece.

1866: Performed again on 13 April in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, by the Le Roy-Duret Company, with Winning a Husband (Buckstone) as afterpiece.

1908: The first Afrikaans version of the original text (by **) was done by the Afrikaans-Hollandse Toneelvereniging in Potchefstroom and Ermelo (1907), then in the Opera House, Pretoria, April, on 1908, to an invited audience including the colonial secretary, General J.C. Smuts. Backdrops painted by the artist Frans Oerder.

1935: Presented in English by the University of Cape Town's Speech and Drama Department at the Little Theatre, directed by Ruth Peffers.

1973: An Afrikaans translation by Roelf Laubscher was done by PACOFS in 1973 by the SUKOVS Werksteater, directed by Jannie Gildenhuys.

1986: In 1986 the play was designed and directed by John Giese for the Eoan Theatre Group. The cast included Theresa Cloete, Raffaele Sabatini, Veronica Edwards, Neil Stoffberg, Edgar Whitley, Bernadette Stevens, Wendy Ely, Estelle Webster, Shamien Essack, Joseph Mitchell, performed in the Baxter Studio.

1994: An adaptation was staged by Jazzart and Magnet Theatre in The Arena in the Nico Malan Theatre in 1994, directed by Mark Fleishman and Jennie Reznek, with Bo Petersen (Medea) and Kurt Wustmann (Jason), Jay Pather, Dawn Langdown, Sifiso Kweyama, Penny Colleen Swain, Busisiwe Ngebulana, Randall Dirks, Sbonakaliso Ndaba, Mpotseng Shuping, Simpiwe Magazi and Heinrich Reisenhofer. Choreography by Alfred Hinkel. This production went to the Grahamstown Festival in 1995 and the Market Theatre in 1996.

2011: A translation into Afrikaans of this text by Arnold Blumer was directed by Marthinus Basson for TEATERteater at Woordfees 2011 and Aardklop 2012, with Coba-Maryn Wilsenach as Medea.

2019: An adapted version of the play, developed and performed by Dario D’Ambrosi's Rome based company and school L’ Associazione del Teatro Patologico[1] (generally referred to as Teatro Patologico), was staged in the Mannie Manim Theatre at The Market Theatre, Johannesburg on 27 September and 28 September, appearing under the auspices of the Italian Cultural Institute in Pretoria and The Market Theatre Foundation. The cast consisted of people with disabilities and professional actors.

International and local adaptations of the Medea text

Medea by Franz Grillparzer [2] (1821)

The original text

The culminating events of Grillparzer's trilogy of reworked Greek plays, Das goldene Vlies (The Golden Fleece). The theme is the tragedy of the heart's desire, the conflict of the simple happy life with that sinister power, be it genius or ambition, which upsets the equilibrium of life. Medea, her revenge stilled, her children dead, bears the fatal Fleece back to Delphi, while Jason is left to realize the nothingness of human striving and earthly happiness. The end is bitter disillusionment; the only consolation renunciation. Some critics consider Medea Grillparzer's highest achievement.

South African productions

1977: Produced in South Africa at The Space (Cape Town), adapted and directed by Barney Simon in his directorial debut at The Space from 9 July to 20 August 1977, with Yvonne Bryceland, Charles Comyn, Wilson Dunster, Chris Galloway, Joel Maister, Michael Maister, Nomhle Nkonyeni and Jacqui Singer. Music by Mike Dickman, set by John Nankin and costumes by Zsuzsanna Kovacs and Danny Malan. Lighting: Dimitri Nicolas-Fanourakis.

1983: Barney Simon directed this version at the Edinburgh Festival and at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith by Traverse Theatre, with Yvonne Bryceland in the cast, from August 1983.

Medea, or The Best of Mothers with a Brute of a Husband by Robert B. Brough

The original text

Medea, or The Best of Mothers, with a Brute of a Husband by Robert B. Brough (1828-1860)[3] is a one act burlesque version of Euripides's Medea, and was first performed at the Royal Olympic Theatre, London, July 14, 1856. Published by T.H. Lacy, London, in 1856[4].

Performance history in South Africa

1858: Performed (under the full title) in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town on 11 May by the Cape Town Dramatic Club, with Still Waters Run Deep (Taylor), with a "Highland Fling" by an amateur. .

1858: Performed (under the full title) in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town on 18 May by the Cape Town Dramatic Club, with Still Waters Run Deep (Taylor), in addition to a "Highland Fling" by an amateur and a "song in character" by J.E.H. English.

1867: Performed (billed something like "Medea burlesque") by the Le Roy-Duret Company in the Theatre Royal, Harrington Street, Cape Town, on 11 and 12 November with Meg's Diversion (Craven) and a dance ("Grand Pas Seul") by Miss Clara.

1867: Performed by the Le Roy-Duret Company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 13 and 15 November with Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly (Beecher Stowe/Aiken/Hermann?) and a dance by Miss Clara.

1867: Performed by the Le Roy-Duret Company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 18 and 21 November with The World and the Stage (Taylor) and a dance ("Pas de Fleurs") by Miss Clara.

1868: Performed again "by special request" by the Le Roy-Duret Company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 6 January as part of a benefit for T.H. Paul, with The Porter's Knot (Oxenford) and songs and dances.

South African performances

Medea by Robinson Jeffers (1946)

The original text

American poet Robinson Jeffers wrote a distilled verse adaptation of the Euripides play especially for the actress Judith Anderson. Presenting Medea as the aggressive daughter of a king, ready to take revenge on Jason, it spoke to public sensibilities of the time.

The play became one of the outstanding successes of the 1940s, in the eyes of audiences and critics alike, winning the triumphant Judith Anderson the Tony Award as Best Actress. Revived with Zoe Caldwell in 1982

South African performances

1955: Produced by Pietro Nolte for the Cape Town Theatre Company at the Rondebosch Town Hall, with Lydia Lindeque as Medea, Jennifer Craig, Percy Sieff, Peter Craig, Pietro Nolte and others in the cast, October 1955.

1962: The English adaptation by American poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) [5] was staged by the Durban Lyric Theatre Company, directed by Peter Curtis (billed as Peter Craig) with Lydia Lindeque as "Medea".

1969: Presumably the text used by Peter Curtis when he directed a production of Medea for the University of Cape Town, probably at the Little Theatre.

Medea by Dieter Reible

The original text

Dieter Reible wrote a German version of the original play for a solo performance by his second wife at an avant-garde theatre in Poland.

South African performances

1981: This version was translated into English and was performed by Trix Pienaar at the Baxter Studio, directed by Reible, opening 13 May 1981. (Manuscript (?) held by NELM: [Collection: LILENSTEIN, Mavis]: 2007. 9. 17. 2).

2011: Reible's adaptation of Medea was translated into Afrikaans by Arnold Blumer and performed at the Woordfees, directed by Marthinus Basson, starring Coba-Maryn Wilsenach.

Kabuki Medea by Shozo Sato

The original text

South African performances

1992 or 1993: A production was staged at an unknown venue in Natal, directed by Shozo Sato and starring Brenda Radloff.

Demea by Guy Butler

The original text

A South African adaptation, based on Medea, first performed at the Grahamstown Festival in 1990, directed by Dieter Reible, and published by David Philip, 1990.

South African performances

1990: Produced at the National Arts Festival and the Alexander Theatre, directed by Dieter Reible. Decor by Lindy Roberts. The cast included Nomsa Xaba as Demea, Louis van Niekerk as Kroon, Graham Hopkins as Jonas Barker, Dale Cutts (Fitzwilliam), Peter Se-Puma (Agaan), Christopher Wells, Bill Curry, Ulrich Dupont and members of the PACT Company. Designer Lindy Roberts, lighting designer Paul Pamboukian.

2007: Produced by students of the University of the Free State Drama Department, Scaena Theatre, directed by Leendert de Jager.

MedEia by Oscar van Woensel et. al. (1998)

The original text

Created by Oscar van Woensel, in collaboration with Kuno Bakker and Manja Topper, the text of MedEia presents a fragmented stream of consciousness version of the Medea story.

First produced by the company Dood Paard in 1998.

South African performances

2003: First performed in South Africa by the Third World Bunfight as a site-specific performance at the University of the Witwatersrand, designed and directed by Brett Bailey, text direction by Lara Bye, with Faniswa Yisa as Medea, James MaccGregor, Frank Paco, Mbali Kgosidintsi, Indalo Stofile, Namhla Tshuka and Apollo Ntshoko.

2005: The site-specific version was repeated at the Spier Arts Summer Season (Stellenbosch).

2012: Reworked for stage production in the Zurich Theater Spektakel, Theaterfestival Basel, Berliner Festspiele, and 7 Dutch cities including Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

2012: Staged at the Baxter Theatre, designed and directed by Brett Bailey, with Faniswa Yisa (Medea), Frank Paco, James McGregor, Apollo Ntshoko, Indalo Stofile, Mbali Kgosidintsi and Namhla Chuka.

Mamma Medea by Tom Lanoye (2001)

The original text

A free adaptation of Euripides's text by Tom Lanoye, it uses the story of "Medea" to address contemporary problems (such as migration and man vs. woman) and analyzing ideas such as the love that develops from the initial passion, problems in the marriage, and the "final hour" of the love between Jason and Medea.

Published 2001 by Prometeus.

Translations and adaptations

The Dutch text was translated into Afrikaans under the same title by Antjie Krog.

Performance history in South Africa

2002: The Afrikaans translation was first staged by Vleis, Rys en Aartappels, opening at the Aardklop Festival in September 2002, directed by Marthinus Basson and co-directed by Sandra Kotzé. The cast included Anthea Thompson, Alyzzander Fourie and Cobus Rossouw. Basson was awarded Beeld Plus's Aardvarkprys award for innovative work for his design and direction of this production.

2003: A new production of the Afrikaans text was done for the Woordfees at the Oude Libertas Theatre in Stellenbosch, directed by Marthinus Basson, with Neels van Jaarsveld, Anthea Thompson, Antoinette Kellermann and Jannie Gagiano.

2003: The Woordfees production was performed at the KKNK festival in Oudtshoorn in April.


Facsimile version of the 1856 Lacy edition of Brough's burlesque, Hathi Trust Digital Archive[6]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 144, 147-8 (a summary of Brough's burlesque), 231-236.

Ruphin Coudyzer. 2023. Annotated list of his photographs of Market Theatre productions. (Provided by Coudyzer)

Third World Bunfight [7]

Teaterteater programme

Inskip, 1972. p.120 (1935 production).

Photocopies from Percy Sieff's scrapbook held by NELM: [Collection: SIEFF, Percy]: 2013. 25. 4. 28. (1955 production).

Medea theatre programme, 1955.

Astbury 1979.

Review by Fiona Chisholm, unititled, undated newspaper clipping (circa 1981) and Die Burger, 5 March 2011 (re Reible adaptation).

Barrow, Brian & Williams-Short, Yvonne 1988.

Beeld, 13 September, 2002.

Rapport, 6 October 2002.

Business Day, 5 March 2003.

Beeld, 19 Jul 1990, The Star, 30 July 1990, Volksblad, 4 June 2007.

National Arts Festival programme, 1990.

Van Zyl Smit 2005; 2007.

Cape Times, 18 September 2012.

"Teatro Patologico visits the Market Theatre", Market Theatre Foundation - News (09/01/2019).

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