The Devil and Billy Markham

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The Devil and Billy Markham is a short comedy play by Sheldon Allan "Shel" Silverstein (September 25, 1930 – May 8/9, 1999 [1]), an American poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, screenwriter and author of children's books. written in rhymed couplets, Billy Markham loses a sucker's bet with the Devil but ultimately outwits him. (Cast: 1m) Billy Markham is an out of work blues singer. A boozer and loser, Billy is in a bar one evening where he is challenged to a game of dice by the Devil; the stakes are his soul. It kicks off a escalating game, taking the characters between Hell, Heaven and Nashville, and moving from hilarity to poignant drama. The text is a lively celebration of the English language.

Original text

Published in Playboy in 1979, it was later adapted into a solo one-act play that debuted on a double bill with Mamet's Bobby Gould in Hell in 1989 at the Lincoln Center. Published in a paperback edition in 1991.

Performance history in South Africa

1986: A Graham Wright Production of this play was directed and acted by Mike Aronstam in 1986 in the Baxter Studio.

1998: Produced in Cape Town, starring Graham Clarke.

2005: Graham Clarke revives his award-winning performance of the late American author Shel Silverstein's epic one-man comedy poem at the Alexander Upstairs, Cape Town. It is filled with a mixture of profanity and profound wisdom.


Barrow, Brian & Williams-Short, Yvonne 1988. (1986 production).

Review written by Fiona Chisholm published in the Cape Argus in 2005 (exact date unknown).

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