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