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 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. In the play the philanthropic adventurer Emma corresponds with her sister Katy back in England, who learns the full and terrible extent of her sister's yearning and isolation when she discovers her sister's hidden diary.

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.

1996: Scenes from the play were performed by seven final year University of Stellenbosch drama students in the Kellerteater at the University, directed by lecturer Shirley Johnston, with a cast including Paul du Toit, Angerie van Wyk, Martelize Kolver, Leanna Dreyer, Nicole Holm , Amelda Brand and Nico Dreyer. Set design and lighting by Kobus Rossouw. In a rare exchange, the production was also performed for and debated by the UCT drama staff and students, in the Drama Department of the University of Cape Town.

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]

Danie Stander. 2017. "Reza de Wet – Haar Lewe en Werke", In: Programme for KKNK Festival, 2017[2]

Gordon Dickerson. 2018. Personal correspondence with Temple Hauptfleisch.


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