Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
Jill Planche PhD, English
Working title: The Larger Stage: Performance space and place within the social, economic and cultural realms in South Africa: performance, praxis and potential.
My proposed project will interrogate the space of performance within South Africa’s complex cultural, economic and social realities. I will explore contemporary theatre praxis in South Africa, and investigate whose voices are being heard; who is the audience? How do issues of cultural hegemony, economic organization, and land ownership play a role in how theatre is practiced, and how does theatrical practice confront these issues? Does -- can -- performance and artistic creativity play a dynamic role in engaging in South Africa’s socio-economic debate and development?
I argue that the space (and I problematize that term) of performance is a critical element in discussing the role theatre can play in addressing South Africa’s socio-economic and artistic challenges: both as a barrier and a bridge to audiences. Two particular theatre spaces will provide focus to the topic. Each is constructed on a site resonant with the physical damage and psychological devastation caused by years of incarceration, violence, and loss -- of memories, land, historical connections and family structure -- as well as years of education unfulfilled. The Fugard Theatre (Cape Town) opened in 2010, built on the ashes of District Six, a culturally vibrant community of mixed-race and Indian people who were evicted during apartheid and removed to the barren Cape Flats. The Soweto Theatre complex (Johannesburg) opened in 2012, built on the racialized site created by apartheid, resonant of political events; now a place of ongoing transformation. The symbolism of these sites -- even in their naming -- makes them spaces of potential, as well as places of memory.