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The Dictionary of Lost Words


Pip Williams’ award-winning New York Times bestseller and book club favourite, The Dictionary of Lost Words, has been beautifully transformed into a hit new play. Directed by Jessica Arthur and adapted for the stage by Verity Laughton, this production from Sydney Theatre Company and State Theatre Company South Australia is overflowing with lush sets, period costumes, and incredible heartfelt performances.

It’s 1886 and the very first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary is being compiled. Four-year-old Esme Nicoll has a front row seat. Well, she’s hiding under the sorting table, anyway. As her father and his male colleagues decide which words stay and which go, Esme collects the discarded (often gendered) scraps to compile her own far more radical, far more magical dictionary.

A sweeping historical tale, The Dictionary of Lost Words follows Esme from her childhood in the 1880s, into adulthood at the height of the women’s suffrage movement and the beginning of the First World War.

The novel captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of readers around the globe and was recommended by book club trendsetters like Reese Witherspoon. This vivid, new play brings to life a stunning and transportive reflection on the love between a daughter and her father, at a time when the women’s rights movement was first gaining traction, into an unmissable night at the theatre.

Writer: Pip Williams, adapted by Verity Laughton

Director: Jessica Arthur

Set Designer: Jonathon Oxlade

Costume Designer: Ailsa Paterson

Lighting: Trent Suidgeest

Composition and Sound Design: Max Lyandvert

Assistant Director: Shannon Rush

Cast: Brett Archer, Rachel Burke, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Brenna Harding, Raj Labade, Ksenja Logos, Angela Mahlatjie, Chris Pitman, Carlos Sanson Jr., Anthony Yangoyan


Photographer: Pia Johnson

Dustan Playhouse Adelaide, Drama Theatre Sydney Sept-Nov 2023| Arts Centre Melbourne Feb 2024


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