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New Territories

Theatre, Drama, and Performance in Post-apartheid South Africa


Edited By Greg Homann and Marc Maufort

South African theatre, drama, and performance is a vibrant and rapidly developing area of contemporary theatre studies. In this critical anthology of essays and interviews, some of the world’s most respected scholars and practitioners writing and working in the area of South African theatre today share their detailed examinations and insights on the complex and contradictory context of post-apartheid society. Loosely grouped into the categories of Theatre, Drama, and Performance, the essays collected here offer a sampling of work being staged, produced, and written in the country today. The contributors document, contrast, and analyse significant case studies, representing examples from site-specific performance to new South African plays, from traditional indigenous performance practice to the reimagining of Western classics. The anthology takes the year of South Africa’s first democratic election, 1994, as its departure point and includes a broad range of topics that capture the current paradigm.
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“The Dangerous Side of Writing:” The Post-apartheid Memory Plays of Athol Fugard


← 146 | 147 → “The Dangerous Side of Writing”

The Post-apartheid Memory Plays of Athol Fugard

Brian CROW

“… the dangerous side of writing – playing God with the fictional lives you’ve created”

Athol Fugard (Pages from a Notebook 189)

Part of theatre’s perennial fascination is the sense of danger that accompanies its liveness, the fact of having real people performing fictional characters in front of an audience. What if an actor freaks out because, playing Hamlet, he suddenly has a vision of his own dead father? Or, more banally, what if the show grinds to a halt because someone completely blanks out on her next lines? But, more often and acceptably, there is a kind of excitement that seems closely akin to danger when accomplished actors perform a powerful dramatic script. We know, of course, that they are performers and what they are doing is giving imaginative theatrical reality to a fiction. But when that fiction has a compelling sense of referring to reality, and when the actors are deeply engaged in their imagining – or at least appear to be – then the dividing line between the represented explosive rage, or humiliation, or despair or whatever emotion it might be and the real thing is fine indeed – too fine sometimes for comfort sitting in the front row of an intimate theatre space.

If my own experience is anything to go by, a large part of Athol Fugard’s global fame as a dramatist...

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