The Birds

Performance Schedule:


Saturday 11 December/ Sunday 12 December
Time: 07h00 Preview price: R35

Early morning performances
An authentic Ancient Greek theatre experience!

Tuesday 14 December - Sunday 19 December
Tuesday 21 December - Friday 24 December
Tuesday 28 December - Friday 31 December
Sunday 2 January
Tuesday 4 January - Sunday 9 January

Time: 07h00 Price: R70 adults/R35 scholars

Running time of ‘The Birds': approximately 1hr.15mins

Kirstenbosch Ticket Office: (021) 761 2866
Kirstenbosch Information Desk: (021) 799 8783

General Information

The closest entrance to the Kirstenbosch Open-air Theatre is Gate 2 (Garden Centre entrance). Bring a cushion and a hat or sunscreen.


The Kirstenbosch Tearoom will be serving a festival buffet breakfast after the early morning performances.

Food & Wine Tastings


The Kirstenbosch Tea Room will be serving a special festival breakfast menu directly after ‘The Birds' performance from 08h00-10h00, including a hot breakfast buffet for R33 per person.

For more information call the Kirstenbosch Tea Room on (021) 797 4883.


The Silvertree Restaurant will also be offering breakfast specials prepared open-air at their new buffet deli. Here you can create Mediterranean picnic platters with tasty vine-filled dolmades and D'Vine wines that can be enjoyed in the Garden or at the restaurant. The Silvertree Restaurant will also be holding a number of wine-tasting evenings hosted by local wine farms during the festival.

For more information call the Silvertree Restaurant on (021) 762 9585.


In the spirit of Dionysos, the god of wine and vegetation as well as theatre, the Botanical Society Bookshop will be having a promotion on wine books and the Kirstenbosch Garden Centre will be stocking indigenous plants with mythological connections for the festival.

Aristophanes' The Birds

The producers are delighted to be celebrating the third annual Dionysos Festival at Kirstenbosch Garden. In particular, we are most grateful to our audiences who have demonstrated such a loyalty to the production of plays from the Ancient Greek canon. First it was Euripides' The Bacchae (2002), then came Sophocles' Oedipus The Tyrant (2003), and now this year Aristophanes' enchanting comedy.

As a comic dramatist Aristophanes (c. 457 or 445 to 385 BCE) provided so many firsts. To our knowledge and in terms of what has come down to us, he was the first playwright to use the formal play to ridicule public and political figures, a descendant could be Pieter-Dirk Uys; in his plays we catch many glimpses of the use of pantomime and burlesque techniques (slapstick) so favoured by the traditional British pantomime and the music hall that we know; there is a vein of vulgarity, both sexual and lavatorial, which is used by certain contemporary stand-up comics and by Leon Schuster in his movies; some of the lyrics to the chorus songs, in translation, reflect the rhythms and rhymes of W S Gilbert; the daft whimsy of the physical representation of the birds themselves would be reiterated centuries later by Lewis Carol's creatures in Alice In Wonderland .

And so one could go on finding in Artistopanes' plays many comic techniques that would be borrowed, used and built-upon by generations of entertainers. He is truly the father of Western theatrical comedy.

The Birds , written and performed around 414 BCE, is not Aristophanes' most overtly political play. Rather it has to do with mankind's never ending search for utopia. For a place of peace and endless joy (`Don't worry, be happy'), especially culinary and sexual satisfactions, far away from the litigious, grasping crowd.

Two Athenians, Peisetaerus and Euelpides leave their city to seek out the Birds. It is their ambition to live amongst the Birds as one of their fellow Athenians, Tereus, has managed to do. Tereus has been transformed into a Hoopoe. The Birds are suspicious. Human beings are the enemies of birds They trap them, they eat them. It takes all Peisetaerus' rhetorical skills (no doubt honed fighting legal battles in the courts of Athens or arguing politics in the Athenian `parliament') to persuade the Birds that he and Euelpides should be taken in.

Peisetaerus triumphs, and together with his fellow traveller, Euelpides, and the Birds they creates their utopia, Cloudcuckooland . Fending off intrusions from human scumbags wanting to get in on their act and from a motley collection of Olympian gods who object to having been deposed by the Birds, our heroes see all the threats to their utopia off the premises. They all live happily ever after…or do they? In the end Peisetaerus is married to a daughter of Zeus, the Olympian Princess, who is described as being a formidable Olympian organizer, kind of boss of everything political, an Olympian female party leader with Zeus as Chairperson. Is this another first for Aristophanes? A subtle hint of feminism at the end of the play? Given his capacity for invention and ridicule, it would not be impossible to find him challenging the strict, paternalistic society that was ancient Athens.

A reminder: in the days of ancient Greece plays were performed at Festivals and they were always played in competition, with the judges awarding prizes to the playwrights and to the actors. Aristophanes demonstrates his anxiety about this matter in the action of The Birds .

The text we are using is essentially the translation of Gilbert Murray with the naughty bits brought back in. As nothing was sacred to Aristophanes, we trust his shade will forgive us if some of our interpolations don't treat his text with absolute reverence.

As we learn in the The Birds , the bringing of `owls' to ancient Athens is like bringing coals to Newcastle. But we believe that bringing the wise old owls of Ancient Greek drama to Cape Town is by no means a purposeless activity.



Peisetaerus… Jeroen Kranenburg
Euelpides… Nhlanhla Mavundla
Poet… Jacques Theron

The Chorus:
Chorus Leader, an Owl
… Stian Bam
A Kingfisher… Luke Viviers
A Pelican… Ryan Coetsee
Trochilos, a Slavebird and Cuckoo… Wayne Hendricks
Tereus, the Hoopoe… Johan Baird
A Flamingo… Riaan Visman
A Nightingale… Ryan Di Domenico
Gobbler, a Turkey… Wiseman Sithole
A Francolin… Jacques Theron

Meton - a surveyor, Father-Beater, Commisar, Lawyer, Iris, Prometheus, Poseidon, Heracles, Triballian and Olympian Princess played by the company.

The action of the play takes place high up in the mountains amongst the tallest trees, in the clouds and in the sky…

There is no interval.


Events Manager for Kirstenbosch… Sarah Struys
Production Manager for Roy Sargeant Productions… Paul Regenass
Stage Manager… Eugéne Cronje
Masks made by… Corrine Smit
Assisted by… Sarah Rynn
Costumes… Artscape Wardrobe
Props Co-ordinator… Rochelle de Villiers
Publicity… Nicky Malcolm
Photographs… Garth Stead
Front of House… Charles Whilley
Music recorded by… Matthew Foster

The Producers wish to thank the Alexander S Onassis Foundation for their sponsorship. They also wish to thank the Greek Government and the Consulate of Greece, Cape Town, and the Consul, Mr Christodoulos Magaritis.

Kirstenbosch wishes to thank Artscape who, by collaborating on The Birds, fulfils its mandate of `theatre for the people, theatre to the people'.

Our thanks to Professor Richard Whitaker of the University of Cape Town.


Dionysos, the Ancient Greek god of vegetation, wine and the theatre, was one of the most popular gods in the Ancient Greek pantheon. Each year in spring the ancient Athenians staged a theatre festival in his specific honour, the Dionysia, in a theatre on the side of the Acropolis known as the Theatre of Dionysos. Tragedies and comedies (satyr plays) were presented in competition and playwrights and actors vied for the winning crowns.

For further information about the Dionysos Festival, please contact the Kirstenbosch Information Desk on (021) 799-8783 Kirstenbosch Ticket Office: (021) 761 2866
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