African National Theatre

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African National Theatre as a concept

This notion was a dream of and a proposal by H.I.E. Dhlomo, though never realised as he had envisaged it.


African National Theatre (ANT) as an event

There is some controversy about this name and its exact history.

While the idea of an African National Theatre was first associated with the writings and ideas of H.I.E. Dhlomo, the actual event or organisation recorded in 1941, is described differently by Percy Tucker (1997) and Loren Kruger (1999).

According to Kruger (1999) the title refers to a one-off festival of short plays, put on by the Bantu People’s Theatre at the Ghandi Hall in Fordsburg in 1941. The programme had a strong socialist emphasis and included Gaur Radebe’s The Rude Criminal and I. Pinchuk’s Tau, performed largely in Sesotho and starring Dan Twala. According to her the experiment does not seem to have been repeated.

On the other hand, Percy Tucker (1997) suggests that ANT was more than a simple festival, and that it actually constituted an own movement, which had developed out of the Bantu People’s Theatre. He says that Patriot Pie by Guy Routh was performed by ANT, as well as Radebe’s play and The Word and the Act by an unknown author.

It would thus seem as if much of the history of this early radical theatre movement has disappeared. (Couzens, 1985; Kruger, 51ff, 74-5;Tucker, 1997, 15).

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