Die Keiser

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Die Keiser ("The Emperor") can refer to one of two theatrical works which have been produced in South Africa:

Die Keiser by Luigi Pirandello (1922)

Die Keiser, is the title of an Afrikaans translation of Luigi Pirandello's 1922 Italian play Enrico IV, translated and directed by Johann van Heerden with students and staff from the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department in 1983.

The play is known by a number of names in English, including The Emperor, Henri IV and Henry IV.

For information on the Pirandello play, see the entry on Enrico IV

Die Keiser by Bartho Smit (1977)

Original text

An Oude Libertas commissioned work, the play is a metaphorical political satire by Bartho Smit (1924-1986) on (South African) society, based on Hans Christian Andersen's beloved tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes" ("Kejserens nye Klæder", originally published on 7 April 1837).

The play initially had various titles, including Die Heilige Keiser ("The Holy Emperor") and Die Sonkeiser ("The Sun Emperor"), and the play was rewritten a number of times before he was satisfied. The final version was produced in Pretoria by PACT in 1978, directed by Francois Swart.

The text was published by Perskor in 1977 and became the winner of the Perskor Prize 1979. One of Smit's least controversial texts, the play became a standard work for companies and a prescribed text for schools and universities for many years, also in the post-apartheid era.

Translations and Adaptation

Translated into English as The Naked Emperor by Aart de Villiers and Don Lamprecht and published as The Naked Emperor: Variations on a Fairy Tale by Hans Andersen by Perskor in 1982.


1978: First produced by PACT in 1978, directed by Francois Swart, with Don Lamprecht (Keiser), Louise Mollett-Prinsloo (Keiserin), Tobie Cronje (Kultuur), Dawid van der Merwe (Veldmaarskalk), Pierre van Pletzen (Diplomaat), Gerben Kamper (Hofnar), Paul Lückhoff (Wag), Phillip Swart (Kamerheer), Etienne Puren (Wewer), Elise Hubert (Tiengelieng), Eric Nobbs (Soldaat) and Nic van Rensburg (Soldaat).

1989: Directed by Marthinus Basson for the CAPAB production in 1989 in the Nico Malan Theatre starring Raél Mercuur, Casper de Vries, Willie Fritz, Louw Verwey, Jozua van der Lugt, Neels Coetzee, Antoinette Kellermann, Gustav Geldenhuys, Elma van Wijk, Royston Stoffels. Music Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, designs John Caviggia, lighting Skip Wright.

1992: PACT 1992, in the State Theatre Arena, directed by Dieter Reible starring Louis van Niekerk (as Die Nar), Antoinette Kellermann, Gustav Geldenhuys, Wilmien Rossouw, Tjaart Potgieter, Andre Odendaal, Hannes Muller, Bill Curry, Dirk Stoltz and Hugo Strydom. Costumes designed by Chris van den Berg.

1993: Gerben Kamper directed a PACOFS production starring Jannie Gildenhuys, Ernst Eloff, Marga van Rooy, Pieter Brand, A.J. van der Merwe, Louw Verwey, Blaise Koch [?] and others.

1998: Presented by PACT for a third time (May 1998), this time under the direction of Hannes Muller, decor and costume designs by David Clatworthy. In the lead role was Christo Compion and other members of the cast were Jean Marais, Lizz Meiring, Jan Stoop, Jacques Botes, Walton van der Westhuizen, Rian Terblanche, Morné Malan and Zeldine Theron.

2000: Presented by the University of Cape Town Drama Department.

2004: Adapted and provided with music, it was performed as a bilingual "visuele skouspel/visual spectacle" under the title Die Keiser/The Emperor and performed by the Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg.

2008: Directed by Gaerin Hauptfleisch for Stercus Produksies at KKNK 2008, starring Deon Lotz, Esther von Waltsleben, Chris Fourie, André Samuels, Irvine van der Merwe, Jan-Hendrik Opperman, Stephanie Hough, Riaan Visman and Geon Nel.




Die Vrye Weekblad, 2 June 1989.

Insig, June 1992.

Beeld, 13 May 1998.

Die Keiser theatre programme (CAPAB), 1989.

Antoinette Kellerman's annotated scripts for the 1989 CAPAB production and the 1992 PACT production, found in the Stellenbosch Drama Department archives in 2022.

UTS theatre pamphlet

NELM: Collection: Performing Arts Council of the Orange Free State (PACOFS)]: 2009. 67. 1. 2. 22[Folder containing nine black and white photographs of Jannie Gildenhuys, Ernst Eloff, Marga van Rooy, Pieter Brand, A.J. van der Merwe, Louw Verwey, Blaise Koch[?] and others in scenes from the 1993 PACOFS production of Die Keiser by "Barto Smith" (sic?)]


Erika Terblanche. 2018. "Bartho Smit (1924–1987)" LitNet-Skrywersalbum[1]

Nushin Elahi. 1992. Glittering allegory of power" In: The Citizen, 7 May 1992: p. 19.

W.F. van Rooyen. 1984. "1974-1984" In: Chris Barnard. 1984. Bartho. By geleentheid van sy sestigste verjaardag Johannesburg: Perskor.

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