Romeo and Juliet
- 1 History of the text
- 2 Adaptations of the text
- 3 South African productions
- 3.1 Performances of the standard text
- 3.2 Translations into South African languages
- 3.3 South African performances of adaptations from abroad
- 3.4 South African adaptations
- 4 Sources
- 5 Return to
History of the text
Based on an Italian tale translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1567. Generally believed to have been written and performed between 1591 and 1596, and first published in a quarto version in 1597. This text was of poor quality, and later editions corrected it, bringing it more in line with Shakespeare's original.
Adaptations of the text
Romeo and Juliet has been adapted numerous times for stage, film, musical and opera (many versions of which have been done in South Africa over the years).
During the English Restoration, it was revived and heavily revised by William Davenant. David Garrick's 18th-century version also modified several scenes, removing material then considered indecent, and Georg Benda's operatic adaptation omitted much of the action and added a happy ending.
Performances in the 19th century, including Charlotte Cushman's, restored the original text, and focused on greater realism. John Gielgud's 1935 version kept very close to Shakespeare's text, and used Elizabethan costumes and staging to enhance the drama. In the 20th century the play has been adapted in versions as diverse as George Cukor's comparatively faithful 1936 production, Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version, and Baz Luhrmann's 1996 MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet. Other 20th century stage adaptations include Jean Anouilh's Roméo et Jeanette, Peter Verhelst's Romeo en Julia, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, Joe Calarco's Shakespeare's R&J, *)
South African productions
An eternal favourite, this play has been performed in various guises in South Africa, including excerpts used as parts of Shakespeare readings and other performances by individuals such as Mrs Greig (1851 and possibly 1853), opera, ballet, anfd film versions.
Performances of the standard text
Excerpts from the play performed as parts of Shakespeare readings by Mrs Greig on her way to England from the Australia or India, assisted by T.P. Hill - and possibly also in 1853 on her return journey to the colonies.
A reading of the play performed by Thomas Brazier, as one of his series of Dramatic Readings held every alternate Monday in the Cape Town City Hall between 4 July and 7 November. (Other plays in the series of seven works read were Knowles's The Hunchback, Bulwer-Lytton's The Lady of Lyons and five plays by Shakespeare: Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, King John and Much Ado about Nothing.)
Announced as the "Grand Shakespearian Entertainment" of Romeo and Juliet and performed in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town by the Le Roy-Duret Company on 11 May, with as afterpieces The Married Rake (Selby) and The Day after the Wedding (Kemble).
Scenes from the play were performed as part of a "Musical and Dramatic Entertainment" by the Le Roy and Duret company in the Commercial Exchange, Cape Town on 27 January. The evening was under the patronage Governor Wodehouse, and the programme also included songs, dances, and scenes read and performed from The Lady of Lyons (Bulwer-Lytton), King John (Shakespeare), The Hunchback (Knowles) and A Rough Diamond (Buckstone).
The Johannesburg REPS, directed by André van Gyseghem, starring Eugenie Heyns, Leon Gluckman, Muriel Alexander, and Herbert Kretzmer, with sets by Len Grosset and costumes by Louis Jacobson. Put on in the Pretoria Opera House and the Wits University Great Hall).
Presented by The Port Elizabeth Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the Theatre Guild at the Gelvandale Community Centre, on 23rd and 24th April, and at the Port Elizabeth Opera House on April 25th till May 3, 1969. Produced by Helen Mann starring Anthony Kirk (Montague), Reg Hicks (Escalus, The Prince), Edith Porter (The Nurse, Derek Scarr(Capulet), Yvonne Roder (Lady Capulet), Jeremy Bayliss (Tybalt), David Nel (Paris), Trevor Hicks (Benvolio), Alfred Porter (Friar Laurence), Elaine Bateson (Lady Montague), Alice Krige (Juliet), Hartog Blok (Peter), Archie Lincoln (Sampson), Richard Chisnell (Gregory), Varrin Karp (Servant), Colin Stevens (Romeo), Roy Williams (Mercutio), Philip Godawa (Balthasar), Stan Fouche (Abraham), Roy Parker (Friar John), Rudi Trap (An Apothecary), Douglas Catt (Watchman), Geraldine Clarke, Jenny Dore, Pam Gibson, Ann Huber, Mike Wollenschlaegear (Citizens of Verona), and Malcolm Morris, Lorenzo De Nevilly Rice (Maskers, guards, watchmen and attendants).
Directed by Roy Sargeant assisted by John Burch for CAPAB English Company opening at the Nico Malan Theatre Saturday 7 October 1972. Costumes and sets by Peter Cazalet. The cast: Stephen Gurney, Glynn Day, David Sherwood, Charles Kinsman, David Haynes, Paul Slabolepszy, Ronald France, Marion Achber, Don Maguire, Liz Dick, Michael Swinton, Wilson Dunster, John Burch, Joyce Bradley, Helen Bourne, Roger Dwyer, Keith Grenville, Charles Hickman, Howard Ayrst, Douglas Skinner, Elliot Playfair. Music by Michael Tuffin.
Presented by René Ahrenson and Cecilia Sonnenberg in association with CAPAB Drama to celebrate their founding of the Maynardville Open Air Shakespeare Theatre, opening 11 January. Directed by Leslie French, associate director Roy Sargeant, designed by Dicky Longhurst, lighting designed by Brian Kennedy, music composed and arranged by Michael Tuffin, choreography by Matine Harman. Romeo was played by British actor Robert Burbage  and Juliet by British actress Lynsey Baxter . Other members of the cast were John Whiteley, Tom Holmes, Melville Oxley, Keith Grenville, Paul Slabolepszy, Sean Taylor, Andrew Buckland, Don Maguire, Chris Goetsch, Bruce Young, Richard Luyt, Martin le Maitre, Robin Sanders, Judith Krummeck, Jeanne Wennberg, Ethwyn Grant.
Janice Honeyman's production of Romeo and Juliet, staged at the Market Theatre, starring Elfranco Wessels, Robert Whitehead, Beverley Melnick, Paul Slabolepszy, Lynette Luyt, Vanessa Cooke and David Eppel. The stage production was televised by the SABC.
Maynardville, directed by Ken Leach, starring Bill Jervis, Gavin van den Berg, Gordon van Rooyen, Ronald France, Robert Finlayson (as Romeo), David Butler, Nicky Rebelo, André Roothman, Royston Stoffels, Peter Butler, Willie Fritz, Timothy Mahoney, Neels Coetzee, Phillip Boucher, Pauline O'Kelly, Ingrid Emslie, Mary Dreyer, Embeth Davidtz (as Juliet), Shaleen Surtie-Richards, 29 January to 5 March. Designed by Marthinus Basson, lighting designed by Malcolm Hurrell, choreography by Pamela Chrimes, fight choreography by John Simons.
Directed for PACT Drama by Ilse van Hemert, 1992, starring Patrick Ndlovu, Peter Se-Puma, Tjaart Potgieter (Montague, Pretoria), Joss Levine (Montague, Johannesburg), Neville Thomas, David Germond (Romeo), Soli Philander, Gustav Geldenhuys (Benvolio, Pretoria), Martin Le Maitre (Sampson, Pretoria and Benvolio, Johannesburg), David Clatworthy, Dale Cutts, Samson Khumalo, Saul Bamberger (Abraham, Pretoria and Sampson, Johannesburg), Bruce Laing, Graham Bulllen (Abraham, Johannesburg), Jane Noble, Billy Second, Emma-Jane Mezher, Nomhle Nkonyeni. Designer James MacNamara, lighting designer Jane Gosnell, fight choreographer Michael Richard.
Recorded during a performance in Johannesburg, it is available as a videorecording. (Skenia in association with Nedbank [distributor], c1992.--145 min).
Maynardville, directed by Clare Stopford. Designs Michael Mitchell, lighting Malcolm Hurrell, sound Robin Shuttleworth. With Blaise Koch, Royston Stoffels, Denise Newman, Nomsa Nene, Denver Vraagom, Rehane Abrahams, Oscar Peterson and Siswe Msutu.
Translations into South African languages
Translated into a number of South African languages, including:
Afrikaans as Die Tragedie van Romeo en Juliet by André P. Brink, Human & Rousseau, 1975. Performed by PACOFS in 1977 (stage manager Mavis Lilenstein) and in 1981, directed by Sandra Kotzé, starring Gerben Kamper and Rina Nienaber. The PACOFS production also starred Hugo Taljaard, Henry Mylne, Nico Luwes, Anna Cloete, Roelf Laubscher and others. Decor and costume design was by Dicky Longhurst and the music was composed by Noel Stockton.
A translation into Afrikaans (Romeo en Juliet) by D'Arcy du Toit was produced by the Groote Schuur High School in Rondebosch, Cape Town, opening 30 July 1971. The director was Cilliers Delport.
South African performances of adaptations from abroad
For South African productions of the aqdaptations, go to the individual entries for the verious versions:
South African adaptations
Similarly, many local variations and adaptations have been done. Examples are **
Romeo and Juliet PACT 1970's
In a theatre-in-education programme on Romeo and Juliet (done by PACT Playwork, director Peter Terry) used the text as a springboard to explore the notion of prejudice in South Africa and Northern Ireland, for debate by the audience.
Romeo and Juliet by Western Cape Theatre of the Deaf, 1999
A movement drama version was presented by the Western Cape Theatre of the Deaf, directed by Dale Homes and Bob Masilela with a cast of high school pupils from Khayelitsha, Langa, Mitchell's Plain, Woodstock and Central Cape Town, April 1999.
Juliet+Romeo+Romeo+Juliet by the Drama Department, University of Stellenbosch, 2011
A modern day adaptation by Christiaan Olwagen, based on a workshop process by director Marthinus Basson and 36 student actors from the Drama Department at University of Stellenbosch. Set in the Verona Clinic for the insane, a metaphor for modern day South Africa, which reflects contemporary reality, with identifiable types and situations from everyday news, the love story has to chart a course between the various approaches to the treatment of psychological deviation amidst the power struggles between doctors and administrative staff. Performed in the H.B. Thom Theatre, 19-25 August 2011, directed by Basson, with designs by Wolf Britz.
Ludwig Wilhelm Berthold Binge. 1969. Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse toneel (1832-1950). Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.
Inskip, 1972. p.150.
Romeo and Juliet theatre programme, Maynardville 1980.
Theatre programme, 1988.
Go to ESAT Bibliography
Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays
Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays
Return to PLAYS III: Collections
Return to South African Festivals and Competitions
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page