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New Territories

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


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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Reanimating the Ordinary: Walking, Talking and Performing in Johannesburg and Beyond


← 260 | 261 → Reanimating the Ordinary

Walking, Talking and Performing in Johannesburg and Beyond


University of Chicago

In an interview at the Berlin Theatertreffen in 2006, Malcolm Purkey, the then artistic director of the Market Theatre, South Africa’s most famous theatre, was quoted as saying that “theatre could completely disappear from South Africa and nobody would notice.”1 While Purkey claimed in a later interview to have repressed the statement, he acknowledged that “for the broad masses of people in South Africa, theatre, at least conventional urban theatre, does not play an important role” and thus even a house like the Market had to justify its existence “to the powers that be” against pressing claims for “basic social needs” (Purkey 18). Although critics may point to new work since Purkey made this remark, it is undoubtedly the case that plays written in English and performed at expensive venues reach only a small minority of spectators. In order to survive, even theatres that aspire to produce new South African work, as do the Market and the Baxter Theatre, its closest counterpart in Cape Town, must attract reliable audiences, and so tend to fit the occasional new work into repertoires dominated by revivals of anti-apartheid classics or local adaptations and stagings of world drama.

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