The Insect Play

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Pictures from the Insects' Life (Ze života hmyzu), also known as The Insect Play or The Life of the Insects, by the Czech writer Karel Čapek (1890-1938) and his brother Josef Čapek, a satire in which insects stand in for various human characteristics: the flighty, vain butterfly, the obsequious, self-serving dung beetle.

The original text

Translations and adaptations

Translated into English by Paul Selver.

Performance history in South Africa

1939: Durban, October, produced by Mrs A. Bierman.

Produced by Muriel Alexander for the Johannesburg Repertory Society. Date unknown.

1946: The Insect Play by the brothers Capek. Presented by the University of Cape Town Speech and Drama Department and produced by Nancy M. Body in the Little Theatre, March 1946. . Featuring Don Howie, Ilse Hilsenrath, John Doff, Queenie Cowan, Philip Segal, Donald Inskip; scenery and costumes designed by Hans Ebenstein.

It was performed by students of the University of the Witwatersrand School of Dramatic Art in The Nunnery at some stage between 1975 and 1983.

1981, 1986: Directed by David Alcock for the Rhodes University Drama Department in 1981 and in May 1986.

1983: Alcock also directed a production at the Little Theatre, Cape Town, (5 to 19 March 1983) starring Vicki Bawcombe, David Butler, Gary Carter, David Clatworthy, David Dennis, Shirley Ellis and others.


The South African Theatre, Music and Dance 1(1), 1939.

South African Opinion, 3(2):22; Trek, 10(18):18, 1946.

Inskip, 1972. 132.

Teaterforum, 4(1), 1983, 113-114.

The Insect Play theatre programme (Little Theatre), 1983, donated by Tony Fletcher, held by NELM: [Collection: FLETCHER, Jill]: 2005. 75. 19. 9.

Posters and programmes (Rhodes productions) held by NELM: [Collection: Rhodes University. Drama Department]: 2006. 48. 17. 17 and [Collection: Rhodes University. Drama Department]: 2006. 48. 17. 18.

Leveson, 2011. 177 (Muriel Alexander production).

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