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festtheatre runs and now, a stint in Edinburgh. One of the play’s actors, Mncedisi Baldwin Shabangu, says: “There are still white towns in South Africa. Black people are still living under hard conditions. Poverty is ripe, children don’t go to school. There are beggars in every corner. So the play, for me, is actually more powerful now and more relevant today than it has ever been.” Also in the season, South African soap star Lesego Motsepe will appear in And the Girls in their Sunday Dresses, a 1988 play by Zakes Mda about two women—known only as The Lady and The Woman—who strike up a friendship while queuing to buy cheap rice. For her, this play’s resonance has always travelled much further than South Africa. She says: “The Lady and the Woman in the play are representatives of many a woman in the world we live in, women who will look down on other women who dress, eat and behave differently from themselves. The core message of the play is that you should never judge a book by its cover, an old adage from yonder years that still applies today.” While these plays hail from the apartheid era, there are also post-apartheid works in Assembly’s South African season. These include Mies Julie, a rewrite of Strindberg’s Miss Julie set in modern South Africa by celebrated director Yael Farber, and Mother to Mother, in which lauded actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones performs Sindiwe Magona’s story about reconciliation and forgiveness. But for Kerfoot, theatre in South Africa today has largely lost the power it had in the 1970s and 1980s. “Politically,” he says, “I don’t think it has the resonance it did, and I think that this is to a large extent unavoidable. Under a repressive and inhumane government, art, and particularly in a South African context, theatre, takes on an important role in satirising and protesting against that government. In a democratic country, it is much harder to pinpoint the origin of the problems facing the people. Politically oriented theatre often lacks the focus and the mass appeal that it had in the 1970s and 1980s.” According to Motsepe, the emphasis on issues may have changed but the rich tradition remains. “Theatre in South Africa is no longer only ‘protest’ but is reflective of what is happening in our society,” she explains. “It still comments on what is happening in our society, our country and in relation to what is happening in the diaspora and the international artistic community. The one thing that has not changed is that art does still continue to represent life.” For Shabangu, it’s not theatre that has altered as much as people’s attitudes towards it. “Theatre in South Africa will never

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change,” he says. “It will always change faces. What people saw in the 1970s and 1980s is still what is happening now. But the apartheid that united us meant that we went to the theatre to understand what position the struggles of the people were taking. As compared to now, where people no longer go to theatres because television has taken over and the Hollywood factor has become a bug. But the people who go to theatres now are actually making a new revolution in marketing, producing, creating and really being as authentic as ever.” Similarly, Kerfoot remains optimistic about the future direction of South African theatre. “There is theatre being made that expresses the vibrancy and diversity that is the new South Africa, and speaks to what it is to be here, now. I think with more opportunities like the Assembly at international festivals, the scope for South African

theatremakers to make exciting work grows exponentially. “An important thing to remember, “ he adds, “which Fugard has proven, is that the best way to expose and examine large-scale or universal issues of injustice or prejudice, is to tell vivid, powerful, personal stories that expose the effects of these issues on individuals, on personal relationships.” As long as injustice remains, stories like these will always be relevant. “Woza Albert! is timeless,” says Shabangu. “It talks about apartheid. It talks about poverty. It talks about the identity of an African in Africa. It talks about humanity ripped apart and people being raped of their dignity. Yes apartheid laws have been removed, but apartheid remains. It was never only by law, it was in people too. Those people are still alive.” f

Statements After An Arrest Under The Immorality Act By Athol Fugard @ Assembly Hall

10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50

Mother To Mother @ Assembly George Square

10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50

And The Girls In Their Sunday Dresses @ Assembly George Square

10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50

Woza Albert! @ Assembly Hall

Top And The Girls In Their Sunday Dresses

10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50

Above Mies Julie

10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50

Mies Julie @ Assembly Hall

edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 65

Fest Preview 2012  
Fest Preview 2012  

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