A Century of South African Theatre
Author(s): Loren Kruger
“Theatre is not part of our vocabulary”: Sipho Sepamla's provocation in 1981, the year of famous anti-apartheid play Woza Albert!, prompts the response, yes indeed, it is. A Century of South African Theatre demonstrates the impact of theatre and other performances-pageants, concerts, sketches, workshops, and performance art-over the last hundred years. Its coverage includes African responses to pro-British pageants celebrating white Union in 1910, such as the Emancipation Centenary of the abolition of British colonial slavery in 1934 organized by Griffiths Motsieloa and HIE Dhlomo, through anti-apartheid testimonial theatre by Athol Fugard, Maishe Maponya, Gcina Mhlophe, and many others, right up to the present dramatization of state capture, inequality and state violence in today's unevenly democratic society, where government has promised much but delivered little.
Building on Loren Kruger's personal observations of forty years as well as her published research, A Century of South African Theatre provides theoretical coordinates from institution to public sphere to syncretism in performance in order to highlight South Africa's changing engagement with the world from the days of Empire, through the apartheid era to the multi-lateral and multi-lingual networks of the 21st century. The final chapters use the Constitution's injunction to improve wellbeing as a prompt to examine the dramaturgy of new problems, especially AIDS and domestic violence, as well as the better known performances in and around the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Kruger critically evaluates internationally known theatre makers, including the signature collaborations between animator/designer William Kentridge, and Handspring Puppet Company, and highlights the local and transnational impact of major post-apartheid companies such as Magnet Theatre.
“Kruger performs the impossible. Her book provides a panoptic view of a sprawling, unwieldy and fascinating subject but there are no short cuts or bland generalisations. Instead, she moves astutely across the shifting terrain and multiple maps of theatre in South Africa, marking the tensions and contradictions of overlapping languages, cultures and authorities...Certainly, in its compelling and erudite coverage of a difficult theatrical century this is a volume not to be missed.” —Liz Gunner, Visiting Research Professor LanCSAL, School of Languages, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
“This book has done justice to the history of South African theatre and more specifically the history of performance and playwriting by African and women theatre makers. While Kruger gives the colonial/apartheid theatre its place and context in history, she deliberately foregrounds the subaltern. As an analyst, Kruger is privileged to have a working knowledge of isiZulu, which she uses to her advantage to view plays, collect data and make informed opinions on African performances. She straddles both the insider and outsider positions making her historical account balanced. This book is an excellent resource for all drama/theatre/performance departments offering an academic major in (South) African theatre or any cultural analyst with an interest in theatre studies.” —Samuel Ravengai, Associate Professor, Head of the Wits School of the Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa