Diepe Grond

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Diepe Grond (Lit: "Deep Ground") is an Afrikaans play by Reza de Wet (1952-2012).

Also variously known as Deep Ground, Run to Ground and African Gothic in English

The original text

The title derives from the Afrikaans version of the saying "Still waters run deep" and, in a subversive spin on a set of popular Afrikaans stories by Alba Bouwer (1920-2010)[1] , telling of an idyllic rural youth, De Wet's play becomes a Gothic style story of incest, apparent madness and murder on a secluded farm, which presents a disturbing but metaphoric look at the Afrikaner psyche, and explores issues of imposed morality and the dark forces that would underpin Apartheid. The play caused a sensation when it was first performed at the ATKV Kampustoneel.

Because De Wet had used the names of Bouwer's original characters, the play caused a strong reaction among people who recognized the reference and fondly remembered Bouwer's work. This led to a threat of legal action from the author, which almost derailed the first professional production, to be done by the Market Theatre. However, the case was settled out of court when De Wet agreed to change the names of the characters. (see Terblanche, 2016).

The text was published by HAUM Literêr in 1986, and is dedicated to the Afrikaans playwright Bartho Smit.

It was also published in the collection Vrystaat Trilogie by HAUM Literêr in 1991.

Translations and adaptations

The play has been translated into English by Reza de Wet, under a number of names. Among them Deep Ground, Run to Ground and African Gothic.

Publication history

First published by HAUM-Literêr in 1987, then in the De Wet collection Vrystaat Trilogie ["Free State Trilogy"] in 1991 (HAUM-Literêr).

The English translation by the author was published as African Gothic in Reza de Wet: Plays Two published by Oberon Books, 2005. (Good Heavens and Breathing In are also included in the collection.)

Stage productions

According to Gordon Dickerson, De Wet's international agent, African Gothic and Missing are the most widely performed of Reza’s plays.

1985: First production at the Kampustoneel festival in by the Rhodes University Drama Department, directed by Denys Webb, with De Wet herself playing "Soekie", Bruce Fields as "Frikkie", Malcolm Hacksley as "Grové" and Noweni Thys as "Ou Alina".

1986: The first professional performance opened Upstairs at the Market, Johannesburg, on 18 June directed by Lucille Gillwald, with Dawid Minnaar, Susan Coetzer, Gys de Villiers and Doris Sihula. Decor by Nadya Cohen, costumes Hazel Maree, lighting Mannie Manim.

1990: An English version was produced in De Wet's own translation at the Tiffany Theatre in Los Angeles.

1995: Directed by James Blanckenberg at the UCT Arena starring Nicola Hanekom, David Isaacs, Alan Committie and Vanessa Wilson. (Die Burger 8 March 1995).

1996: Presented by KRUIK Toneel directed by Marthinus Basson (assisted by Sandra Temmingh), with Nicola Hanekom (Soekie), Chris Vorster (Frikkie), Jan Ellis (Grové) and Pinky Ngxangane (Ou Alina). Opened 25 March 1996 at the H.B. Thom Theatre, 3 April 1996 at the KKNK and 13 April 1996 at the Nico Malan Theatre. Set designed by Marthinus Basson, costume design by Peter Cazalet, lighting design by Kobus Rossouw.

1999: Staged in the Hull Street Theatre in Kimberley, directed by Anel de Swardt, with de Swardt, Barry Strydom, Edwin Stanger and Ida Krohne.

2003: Staged in De Wet's own English translation as Run to Ground by KickstArt in the KwaSuka Theatre in Durban, directed by Greg King, with Belinda Harward, Steven Stead, Patti Nokwe and Frantz Dobrowsky.

2003: Performed in Sydney, Australia, in November

2004: Performed once again in Janary/February in Sydney, Australia.

2005: Performed in Los Angeles Janary/February.

2007: A London production of African Gothic ran from May 1–20 at the White Bear Theatre, Kennington, directed by Derek Bond.

2011: The English version, staged under the title African Gothic, started in Forest Row, Surrey in October 2010 then played a couple of performances in Soho, London, January 2011 followed by a run at the Arcola Theatre 2 – 13th August. Directed by Naomi Wirthner, with Jane Gwilliams, Gil Sutherland, Naomi Wirthner and Gary Wright.

2012-13: A Greek language production ran in Thessaloniki mid December 2012 to mid January 2013.

2016: Presented as African Gothic in the Park Theatre, London, by Two Sheds Theatre, produced by Roger Mortimer and Deborah Edgington, Directed by Roger Mortimer, with Janna Fox, Oliver Gomm, Lesley Ewen and Adam Ewan. Set and Costume Design by Nancy Surman, Lighting Design by Jack Weir and Sound Design by Erin Witton. Production photographs by Boris Mitkov.

2018: Presented as African Gothic by UJ (University of Johannesburg) Arts & Culture Faculty of Art at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, directed by Alby Michaels, starring Liezl de Kock, Zak Hendricks, Mpho Osei-Tutu, Olive Strachan.

Film versions

There have been two short films based on Diepe Grond:

A 10 minute Spanish language film based on the play was made in California in 2007 by Eubulus Timothy

A 28 minute film in Afrikaans, inspired by the play and called Eersgeborene (Firstborn), is a radical adaptation of the central theme of De Wet's play, written and directed by Etienne Kallos as his thesis film for the California College of Arts in 2009. This was the first Afrikaans-language film to win the Corto Cortissimo Lion (the Golden Lion) for best short film at the Venice Film Festival.

The English version of the play was adapted for film by the actor Damon Shalit , who had appeared in the 2005 Los Angeles stage production, and was produced by Senderwood Films / 12/21 Productions in 2012-2013. A full length film version, with a script written by Damon Shalit, directed by Gabriel Bologna with Damon Shalit as "Frikkie", Chella Ferrow as "Sussie" and Jonny Coyne as "Grove", with Glen A. Vaughn, Maria Olsen, Connie Jackson, David Verne and Aviv Gadi. The film had its world premiere at the Durban International Film Festival (SA) in July, 2013, and went on to win a number of awards at various festivals around the world. German and Turkish translations circulating.


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

Marthinus Basson. 2005. "Introduction" in Reza de Wet: Plays Two. London: Oberon Books.

Material held by NELM relating to the 2007 London production: [Collection: Rhodes University. Drama Department]: 2010. 28. 4. 13. 6.

Temple Hauptfleisch. 2009. "Die Dramaturg as Dromer". In: Reza de Wet. Blou Uur. Kaapstad: Maskew Miller Longman.

Artslink.co.za <news1014@artslink.co.za>

Erika Terblanche. 2016. "Alba Bouwer (1920–2010)", ATKV|LitNet-Skrywersalbum[2]

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1931378/ (Accessed 09h09 on 2018/06/16)

http://www.africangothic.com. (Accessed 12h00 on 6 October, 2014. The website now discontinued)



Review of African Gothic, Hackney Citizen, 29 July 2011 [3].

Chris Omaweng 2016. "African Gothic By Reza de Wet at Park Theatre" – Review in London Theatre1.Com[4]

Gordon Dickerson. 2018. Personal correspondence with Temple Hauptfleisch.


Artslink.co.za <news1014@artslink.co.za>


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