The Lion in Winter

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The Lion in Winter is a play by James Goldman (1927-1998)[1].

The original play

Written in 1966, it depicts the personal and political conflicts of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their children and their guests during Christmas, 1183.

In an extract from the PACT 1968 souvenir programme written by Goldman, he says: "The Lion in Winter takes place some six months after young Henry's death. The problem, at the time, was the selection of a new heir, and it is out of the struggle for succession that the narrative arises. In all, they were terrifying family. There were constant plots and wars between the father and his sons, fights always followed by reunion and forgiveness. They offer, for my play, a spectacle that is bitter, vengeful, passionate and loving all at once".

The play premiered on March 3, 1966, in New York at the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway. , starring Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris, who won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Eleanor. It was adapted by Goldman into an Academy Award-winning 1968 film of the same name, starring Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Afrikaans as Die Leeu in die Winter by Francois Swart.

Translated into French as Le Lion en Hiver by Elizabeth Bourget (1953-). Performed at the Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, Montréal in 2008, directed by Daniel Roussel.

Famously filmed in 1968, directed by Anthony Harvey with Peter O'Toole as Henry and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor, to a script adapted by Goldman himself[2]. In 2003 the film was remade for television with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close in the leading roles.[3]

Performance history in South Africa

1968: The play opened at the Alexander Theatre in Johannesburg, presented by PACT and directed by Taubie Kushlick. The original cast consisted of Joe Stewardson, Alais Capet, A French Princess - Gillian Lomberg, John, Henry's youngest son - John Rogers, Geoffrey, The middle son - Dale Cutts, Richard Lionheart, The eldest son - Ivor van Rensburg, Eleanor of Aquitane, Henry's wife - Marika Mann and Philip Capet, King of France - Christopher Galloway. Decor and costumes were designed by Raimond Schoop, music composed by Stephen O'Reilly, lighting design by Taubie Kushlick, assisted by Richard Lockwood. The music was recorded by members of the PACT orchestra, conducted by Prof. Leo Quayle

1968: A totally new cast was selected for a joint national touring production by CAPAB in association with PACT and NAPAC by arrangement with Taubie Kushlick. Once more directed by Taubie Kushlick, it now featured Michael Atkinson (Henry II), Valerie Miller (Eleanor), Gillian Garlick (Alais Capet), Wilson Dunster (John), Ken Leach (Geoffrey), David Goatham (Richard Lionheart), Roger Dwyer (Philip Capet). Set designed by Raimond Schoop and Inge Gerd, costumes designed by Jennifer Craig. Stage manager Scott Robertson. They opened at the Hofmeyr Theatre on the 20th of May, playing till the 25th, before going on the road to visit the H.B. Thom Theatre, Stellenbosch (27-28 May), the Kimberley Theatre (31 May-1 June), the Bloemfontein Civic Theatre (4-5 June), the Ernest Oppenheimer Theatre, Welkom (7-8 June), the Alhambra Theatre, Durban (10-15 June), the Port Elizabeth Opera House (18-22 June), the Rhodes University Theatre in Grahamstown (24-25 June) and the Guild Theatre, East London (27-29 June).

1982: Performed in Afrikaans as Die Leeu in die Winter by PACT Afrikaans Drama in July at the Breytenbach Theatre, directed by Francois Swart. The cast included Louis van Niekerk, Paul Lückhoff, Nico Liebenberg, Johan Engelbrecht, Amor Tredoux, Schalk Schoombie and Wilna Snyman. Designs by Chris van den Berg.

1988: Staged in English by PACT, directed by Dieter Reible, with Michael McGovern (Henry II), Susan Danford (Alais), Stephen Jennings (John), Peter Terry (Geoffrey), James Borthwick (Richard), Wilna Snyman (Eleanor), Glenn Swart (Philip). Designs by Chris van den Berg and lighting by Jane Gosnell.


Grütter, Wilhelm, CAPAB 25 Years, 1987. Unpublished research. p 61 and Teater SA, 1(1), 1968.

PACT theatre pamphlet.

PACT souvenir programme of February to May 1968.

KRUIK-dagboek ("CAPAB Diary"), in CAPAB News, 20 May-30June, 1968.

The Lion in Winter theatre programme, Cape Town, 1968.

PACT theatre programme, 1988.

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

Bob Martin 2008. (1982 production in Afrikaans).

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