Five Finger Exercise

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Five Finger Exercise is a 1959 two-act play by English playwright Peter Shaffer(1926-2016)[1].

The original text

The play is set in the present in a country cottage in Suffolk and is about an apparently normal English family - mother, father, son and daughter - whose equilibrium is upset by the catalyst of a German tutor for the daughter. His presence releases the tensions hidden in each person, including his own. This play gained the reputation of being the best straight play written in 1958. It was produced by Sir John Gielgud and ran for over 600 performances in London.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1959: Performed by the Brian Brooke Company, Brooke Theatre in 1959, guest-starring Brook Williams (son of Emlyn Williams).

1961: Presented by the Barn Theatre Players at the Little Theatre, University of Cape Town, directed by David Bloomberg, from 18 to 25 November 1961.

1962: Presented by the Amateur Theatre Guild at the Port Elizabeth City Hall, presented by Jem Miller Production, from 20 - 24 February. Starring Christine Roberts (The Mother), George Jones (The Father), Jill Shepherd (The Sister), Alan Williams (The Brother), and David Hemmings (The Tutor). The set, designed by Pat Fogarty, was at that stage the most complex set ever built by an amateur company in Port Elizabeth with three levels and seven entrances. It was built by Bruce Mann, Brian Gaven, Ralph Jarvis, Noel Cudmore and Antoinette Assemaine. The total proceeds of the play, in accordance with the practice of the Amateur Theatre Guild were donated to a charitable organisation, in this case the Homes for the Aged.

1962: Presented by the Amateur Theatre Guild at the Uitenhage Town Hall, presented by Jem Miller Production, on March 2.

1987: staged by the University of Pretoria Drama Department, directed by Braam Cilliers, with Anna Pio, Michael Modena, Bart Fouche, Jan Steyn and Elma van Wijk.


Five Finger Exercise theatre programme, 1962.

Undated newspaper review by David Rex.

NELM [Collection: KORT, Maurice]: 2012. 379. 13. 22.

University of Pretoria Drama Department theatre programme, 1987.

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

Percy Tucker, 1997.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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