South African Theatre

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The phrase South African Theatre may refer to two things: South African theatre


South African Theatre as a descriptor or theme

As pointed out regarding the term South African, the notion usually refers to anything belonging to or arising from the political and geographical region called South Africa. Of course there is a problem with an itinerant and multicultural cultural activity such as theatre - for when does a production become "South African"? (When there is an South African cast? When the play is put on in South Africa? etc. - see in this regard also the entry on the term African) So "South African theatre" is perhaps best described by more cumbersome terms, such as Theatre in South Africa or Theatre of South Africa, though each in turn has its own delimitations and/or shortcomings.

The broad definition

General usage, and definitely for the purposes of this Encyclopaedia, the term South African Theatre (and the other terms related to it), refer not only to plays or performances created by South Africans, but also all works (foreign and local "texts") performed in South Africa by locals and foreigners, and all local productions performed or toured abroad.

(In this regard, see the introductory article: South African Theatre: An Overview, as well as the entries on the notion South African)

Southern African is sometimes used to include South Africa, but to also indicate a slightly broader geographic and cultural area, including neighbouring countries, such as Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, etc.

Other possible definitions

A rarer, but more specific, though somewhat contentious, version of this latter stance occurs in cases where South African Theatre is used to refer only to work created in South Africa or by South Africans, i.e. the argument for the indigenous art work. This argument, in its purist form, may even ignore local productions of plays written by non-South Africans (unless translated or adapted).

Another, possibly more radical and insidious example of this kind of parochialism occurs where some authors have co-opted the term to refer to works in only one language as "South African" (this applies to film, music, prose, poetry and theatre).

All of this is of course ultimately related to the philosophical and semantic issues such as indigineity[1] and decolonisation[2]; and what we actually mean by South African art and culture per se - an ongoing argument.

South African Theatre as the name of a venue

The name South African Theatre was at times applied to the African Theatre in Cape Town by 19th century journalists. (See for example F.C.L. Bosman,1928).

See The African Theatre

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