Die Fel Omstrede Kroon van Edward II en Gaveston by Tom Lanoye, Belgium's most famous novelist and playwright, comes to the Baxter Flipside for a limited season, from 16 to 26 January 2024 at 7.30pm, with a matinee on 19 January at 2.30pm.

Lanoye’s work is well known in South Africa and he is famous for award-winning plays such as Koningin Lear, Mamma Medea and Bloed en Rose.

Performed in Afrikaans with English surtitles, this exciting drama is loosely based on Christopher Marlowe's Edward II of 1594. Marlowe, a contemporary and rival of Shakespeare, himself happily reworked the tragic history of King Edward II of England who was deposed in 1327 after a messy reign and was then, possibly, murdered by the nobles.

Directed and designed by Marthinus Basson, the stellar cast comprises Edwin van der Walt as Edward II, Beer Adriaanse as Gaveston, Rolanda Marais as Queen Isabella, Caleb Payne as the crown prince, André Roothman as old king and old Mortimer and Wilhelm van der Walt as young Mortimer. Marijke Coornaert in a review for Litnet described them as, “The glittering pearls of this crown are the six actors ... Together they elevate each other, challenge each other and are one in each other’s greatness.” Music is by David Wolfswinkel and lighting design by Nicolaas de Jongh.

The question arises: ‘what does it mean to wear the crown and how do you reconcile your own needs with the expectations of the nobility and the mob, as well as those of your wife and child?’ These questions have been much discussed recently after the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the succession of the present king with the complex history between king and ex-wife, the conflict between parent and children and the added tension between public and political sentiments.

King Edward I is dying and would like his crown can go to his grandchild instead of his son whom he despises because of a relationship with his childhood friend, Gaveston, who at this point is in exile. But Edward II is crowned, Gaveston is unbanned and their love not only thrives, Gaveston is elevated to the status of king himself. This leads to consternation and the fury of both the nobility and the populace.

After an incident in which Gaveston publicly exposes the archbishop for the scum he really is, he is banished yet again. The situation turns into a political and personal crisis for all involved.

In this masterly adaptation by Tom Lanoye, whose language can be described as ‘a dazzling firework display’ (Litnet, Marijke Coornaert,) he explores love, power, personal choice, children, complex relationships and the place of the individual within a society under the weight of a heavy crown.

Leatitia Pople for Die Burger wrote, “It is theatre that makes you think and ponder what the pillars of a civilized society could be”, while Andréa Müller for Kleinti said, “Astounding. Dramatic, sharp with much humour and intense passion. I have never seen or heard anything like it in Afrikaans before.”

There is an age restriction of 16 years (nudity and language).