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World Premiere


The Dictionary of Lost Words

Adapted by Verity Laughton from the novel by Pip Williams

Season Finished
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre

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Watch the Trailer


In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered to be missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. The Dictionary of Lost Words is the story of the girl who stole it.

South Australian novelist Pip Williams’ internationally best-selling book, comes to vivid life in this world premiere stage adaptation by South Australian playwright, Verity Laughton.

A best-selling multi-award winner (including the People’s Choice Award at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards) and chosen for the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, the book has been lauded as an “absorbing, quietly revolutionary novel”, “deeply, intrinsically kind (and) a profoundly comforting place to dwell” (The Age) and “a captivating and slyly subversive fictional paean to the real women whose work on the Oxford English Dictionary went largely unheralded.” (New York Times).

Motherless and ever curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium – the “Scrippy”, a converted garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers guided by Dr James Murray are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. She hides beneath the sorting table and catches a word on a “slip” as it falls and soon, she finds other words that have been neglected by the men. Here begins Esme’s collection of her own: the Dictionary of Lost Words.

As the years pass, Esme realises that little importance is placed on recording the words and meanings relating to women’s experiences and as her world expands and her circle of friends grows – actresses, suffragettes, market traders, workers, she realises the power in their silenced voices and decides to lend them hers. And on the way, she comes to understand the many meanings of the word “love”.

Full of heart and tenderness, heartbreak and joy, love and loss.” The Herald Sun

What a coup for this Company! A hugely popular South Australian novel bursts onto our stage. Verity’s adaptation gets to the rich core of the book while making the story a thing what will sing in the theatre. How equally thrilling to have Jessica Arthur, fresh from her success with Chalkface, return to us to direct this beloved, epic, romantic tale that celebrates language and its power. Sure to be a landmark production. Mitchell

Show Information

Recommended for ages 16+. Contains strong coarse language and adult themes. More detailed warnings will be available closer to the show.

3 hours (including interval). Subject to change.

Digital Program

A digital show program for THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS can be viewed online:

Or download a PDF version of the program.

To request a copy of THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS printed program, please contact us at marketing@statetheatrecompany.com.au.

Creative Team

  • Writer

    Pip Williams
  • Adapting Playwright

    Verity Laughton
  • Director

    Jessica Arthur
  • Set Designer

    Jonathon Oxlade
  • Costume Designer

    Ailsa Paterson
  • Lighting Designer

    Trent Suidgeest
  • Composer

    Max Lyandvert
  • Assistant Director

    Shannon Rush
  • Accent Coach

    Jennifer Innes
  • AV System Design

    Lachlan Turner
  • Cast - Harry

    Brett Archer
  • Cast - Lizzie

    Rachel Burke
  • Cast - Esme

    Tilda Cobham-Hervey
  • Cast - Gareth

    Raj Labade
  • Cast - Ditte / Mabel

    Ksenja Logos
  • Cast - Tilda

    Angela Mahlatjie
  • Cast - Dr Murray

    Chris Pitman
  • Cast - Bill

    Anthony Yangoyan


Tickets are selling fast, with restricted view seating only for some performances.

Tickets are also available via Ticketek.

Join our waitlist to receive an SMS or email notification should we have a return season.


Single Ticket Prices

Adult $85.00
Concession $75.00
Under 30, Full Time Student $49.00

Adult $95.00
Concession $85.00
Under 30, Full Time Student $49.00

Some scenes or sections of the set may have limited visibility from these seats, which is reflected in the discounted price

Bookings via State Theatre Company South Australia ticketing incur a $8.95 transaction fee.
Bookings via Ticketek incur an $9.25 transaction fee.
Visit the Ticket Price page for the full list of subscription and single ticket prices.


Access Performances

Audio Described Performances and Pre-Show Briefing for blind and low-vision patrons
Tuesday 3 October, 5.30pm (briefing), 6.30pm (performance with post-show Q and A)
Saturday 7 October, 1pm (briefing), 2pm (performance)

Audio Described Resources
Read pre-show notes document (Word)
Listen to pre-show notes audio file (MP3)

Captioned Performances
11.00am, Wednesday 4 October
6.30pm, Wednesday 4 October

Visit the Access page for more information on our Access Program.


Tangent Talk

Get the story behind the story with our Tangent Talk series at the State Library of South Australia. Before you see the show, join us for a drink and panel discussion.
4 September

Subscriber Briefing

2023 Subscribers are invited to join us for an exclusive Subscriber Briefing to learn more about the creation of the show.
– 18 September

Post Show Q&As

We hold Q&As with our artists and creative teams so that you can ask questions about the production.
3 October
4 October Matinee

A Date with State

Supported by the Office for Ageing Well and Seniors Card, join us for our 2023 A Date With State program, with pre-show tea and coffee before the performance and a post-show Q&A.
4 October Matinee


  • Watch a recording of our Tangent Talk for The Dictionary of Lost Words at the State Library of South Australia, which was held on Monday 4 September 2023. In this special In Conversation discussion event, we’re joined by two of South Australia’s most esteemed writing talents, the author of the bestselling book herself, Pip Williams, and our adapting playwright Verity Laughton. In this fascinating talk, hosted by the play’s Assistant Director Shannon Rush, we unveil the tales behind the adaptation process and the journey to bringing this beloved story to the stage.

School Performances

State Theatre Company South Australia is offering one school performance as part of our season of The Dictionary of Lost Words. Visit the State Educate resources page for the Study Guide and What to Expect.

School performances
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre

  • Tuesday 26 September 11.00am

Check performance availability here

Complete book form here

Any enquiries should be directed to education@statetheatrecompany.com.au.


Venue Access

This show will be performed at the Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre.

The recommended Dunstan Playhouse and Space Theatre drop off zone is at the northern end of the Riverbank Footbridge on War Memorial Drive (walk across the Footbridge to Dunstan Playhouse) or at the Intercontinental Hotel (walk north between the Intercontinental Hotel and Railway Station along the lane way to the Riverbank). There is also a drop off area and two accessible car spaces on lower Festival Drive, accessible from the west via Montefiore Road.

Getting to the Venue

Adelaide Festival Centre is easily accessible by public transport, including the tram (stop at Railway Station), trains, buses and a free bus service that operates on a loop throughout the city and North Adelaide with stops on the corner of King William Road and North Terrace.

For more information visit https://adelaidemetro.com.au/

For information about parking near the Adelaide Festival Centre, please click here.

Dining Options

Malt Shovel Taphouse
Located at the Adelaide Festival Centre at the end of the Adelaide Oval footbridge
Open Wednesday 3pm-11pm and Thursday – Sunday 11.30am-late

The Strathmore Hotel
Located 5 minutes from the Dunstan Playhouse at 29 North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000
Open 7 days, 11am – 3am