A Worm in the Bud

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A Worm in the Bud is a play by Reza de Wet (1952-2012).

Also known as Fever

The original text

Written in 1988, it is play about cultural discrimination, it is cast in the form of a public lecture and utilising a correspondence between two sisters to explore an Englishwoman’s emotional experiences as the wife of an Afrikaner man in the late 19th century.

The play revolves around the correspondence between the philanthropic adventurer, Emma, who goes to SA in 1904 to educate Boer children and her sister in England. Emma is unprepared for the untamed environment and the sister, Katy, judges the Boers from the safety of Britannia.

First published in 1995 as A Worm in the Bud in the collection Open Space: Six Contemporary Plays from Africa edited by Yvette Hutchison and Kole Omotoso (Cape Town: Kagiso Publishers).

At a later point in her career, De Wet reworked A Worm in the Bud, calling the new play Fever. In this version Emma Burnett is described more sympathetically by expanding her sister Katy's story to engage with the Victorian attitudes they had grown up with. Fever was subsequently published along with a contrasting play, Concealment, in the collection De Wet: Two Plays by Oberon Books in the series Oberon Modern Playwrights (2007).

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1990: Staged by PACT in the Windybrow Theatre, Johannesburg, in March, directed by Denys Webb, with Embeth Davidtz (Emma) and Michelle Scott (Katy).

1991: Presented at the National Arts Festival Fringe under the direction of Denys Webb, starring Michelle Constant and Edwina Sherridan-Smith.

1998: Presented by the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department in the Kellerteater, 22-25 April, directed by Molly Mohr, starring Ruth Lavelle and Stephanie Hough.

2011: A Woordfees 2011 production directed by Gaerin Hauptfleisch with Stephanie Hough and Karolien van Zyl.


Pretoria News, 14 March 1990.

PACT theatre programme, 1990.

Yvette Hutchison and Kole Omotoso. 1995. Open Space: Six Contemporary Plays from Africa. Cape Town: Kagiso Publishers.

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

Anton Krueger. 2009. Experiments in Freedom: Explorations of Identity in New South African Drama. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.[1]


Go to ESAT Bibliography

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