Death and the Maiden

Written by Ariel Dorfman

Thursday 27th April to Saturday 29th April and Tuesday 2nd May to Saturday 8th May 1995

Directed by Frank Lyons

A stunning moral thriller about torture and trust, rape and revenge, forgiveness and silence. Bench Theatre presents the first amateur performance of this work.

AuthorAriel Dorfman

Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman (b 1942)

Dorfman is an American novelist and playwright, who was born in Argentina. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to the United States and then, in 1954, to Chile. He attended and later worked as a professor at the University of Chile, becoming a Chilean citizen in 1967. From 1970 to 1973, he served as a cultural adviser to president Salvador Allende. Forced to leave Chile in 1973, after the coup by General Augusto Pinochet leading to the death of President Salvador Allende, he subsequently lived in Paris, Amsterdam, and Washington, D.C. Since the restoration of democracy in Chile in 1990, he has divided his time between Santiago and the United States.

Dorfman's work often deals with the horrors of tyranny and, in later works, the trials of exile. His most famous play, 'Death and the Maiden', describes the encounter of a former torture victim with the man she believed tortured her. Dorfman's plays have been translated into more than 40 languages and performed in over 100 countries and he has won various international awards, including two Kennedy Centre Theatre Awards. In 1996, with his son, Rodrigo, he received a Writers' Guild of Great Britain award for 'Prisoners in Time'.

PlayDeath and the Maiden

'Death and The Maiden' is a play in three acts which premiered in English in 1990 with Juliet Stephenson, Bill Patterson and Michael Byrne. In 1991, it was performed on Broadway with Glenn Close, Peter Dreyfuss and Gene Hackman and was released as a Roman Polanski film.

It is set in the present and the place is indeterminate but could be any country that has given itself democratic government just after a long period of dictatorship. Paulina Salas is a former political prisoner who had been raped by her captors (led by a sadistic doctor whose face she never saw). Years later, after the repressive regime has fallen, Paulina lives in an isolated country house with her husband, Gerardo Escobar. When Gerardo returns after visiting the president, he suffers a flat tyre. A stranger named Dr Miranda stops to assist him and drives him home. Paulina recognises Miranda as the rapist, and takes matters in to her own hands in order to get justice for herself.

The Bench Production

Death and the Maiden poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Paulina SalasJude Salmon
Gerardo Escobar, her husband, a lawyerPeter Corrigan
Doctor Roberto MirandaPete Woodward
DeathJames Hearst
MaidenNik Robson


Director Frank Lyons
Stage Manager Sally Hartley
Assistant Stage Manager Lindy Nettleton
Lighting Design Steve Wilkins
Sound Gemma Harding
Set Design David Penrose
Set Construction Wanda Barnes
Andrew Caple
Chloe Gerhardt
Frank Lyons
Rachel Lyons
Sam Lyons
Alix O'Hara
Nick O'Hara
Publicity Materials Les Lyons

Director's Notes

Ariel Dorfman began exploring the dramatic situation that was to become Death and the Maiden whilst General Pinochet was still the dictator of Chile. The play was eventually written and first performed after Chile has returned to democracy in 1990. Although the events of the play focus on the lives of three individuals they provide a parable for any society experiencing the uneasy transition from dictatorship to democracy, corruption to justice, secrecy to openness. As Dorfman points out in his afterword to the play script, the important issues for any society that has suffered enormous conflict and pain, involve deeply psychological and difficult questions.

Dorfman has thus given us a play for our time that addresses problems that are found all over the world. It is the most performed play in the English theatre at this moment. This is not surprising given the extraordinary social changes we are experiencing, when there is so much hope for the future and so much confusion about what that future may bring.

Frank Lyons

Production Photographs