Cabaret in South Africa

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See also the musical play Cabaret


A form of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue—a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting at tables (often dining or drinking) watching the performance being introduced by a master of ceremonies or emcee (MC).

Cabaret also refers to a Mediterranean-style brothel and bar with tables; where women mingle with and entertain the clientele. Traditionally these establishments can also feature some form of stage entertainment, often singers and dancers.

Particularly influential in adapting the cabaret form to 20th centrury political theatre have been Parisian cabaret, Dutch cabaret, German cabaret and Polish cabaret.


For more on cabaret in general see for example

See also Bertolt Brecht, vaudeville and music hall in ESAT

Cabaret in South Africa

But the first real indigenous development came in the 1970s with the emergence of the Kabaret movement. Kabaret is the Afrikaans word for cabaret. Though it is sometimes used in the general sense discussed above under Cabaret, it is usually used in the more specific, literary, sense it gained in South Africa , especially in the Stellenbosch and Cape Town regions during the 1970-1985 period. At the incentive of local writers, composers and directors, led by Hennie Aucamp, a form of resistance theatre utilizing the cabaret format emerged and caused a sensation at traditioanlly English liberal venues (e.g. the Market Theatre and the Grahamstown Festival). Based on the European political cabaret - notably the German cabaret or Kabarett (a form of political satire that was created at the end of the 19th century) and the theories and practices of Brecht and others, it became one of the most prominent and direct forms of political protest essayed by the Afrikaner youth of the time. ***

Cabaret in English

Kabaret in Afrikaans

Kabaret is the Afrikaans word for Cabaret.

Kabaret and cultural resistance

The notion of using variety concerts or cabarets as a form of resistance dates from the 19th century (eg.) and also from the early Afrikaner nationalist period; i.e. from the Boer War (e.g. ), the Rebellion (e.g ) and the 2nd World War (see for example Die Katdorings)

However, while it is often used in the general sense discussed above , it also gained a more specific meaning in the Cape and the country during the 1970-1980 period. At the incentive of Hennie Aucamp it developed as a form of resistance theatre utilized by Afrikaans writers and performers, rooted in the political cabaret of the Weimar period, strongly inlfuenced by the work of Bertolt Brecht. ***


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