Dutch theatre in South Africa

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Called Hollandse toneel or Nederlandse toneel in Afrikaans. Includes Belgian theatre.

This occurs in two forms. Firstly there is the performance of Dutch plays (by Dutch authors from the Netherlands and Belgium), performed in South Africa. (Vide French theatre in South Africa, German theatre in South Africa, etc.) The second is the impact of the Dutch settlers and their performance traditions on the local theatre, and the productions put on by the amateur and professional coampanies formed formed by them (vide British Theatre in South Africa). *** Central to the Dutch tradition is the Rederijkerskamers (Lit: "chambers of rhetoric"). Also spelled Rederykerskamers in Afrikaans. These Dutch cultural societies derived from the French notion of a "college de rhétorique", and sought to promote poetry and rhetoric They first took root in Southern Holland in the 15th century. (One of the earliest recorded was Het Boeck, a poet's society founded in Brussels in 1401AD, which focussed on rhetoric utilizing poems as well as plays.) Over the course of the next three centuries the idea spread further and became a cultural feature of Northern Holland as well. By the mid 19th century (in 1856) the societies appeared to be flourishing and the Nederlandsche Rederijkers Verbond ("Society of Redrijkerskamers"), to which the majority of such and related societies devoted to rhetoric and poetry were affiliated, lists the names over 200 new members! The idea transposed to South Africa rather late, arriving only in the 19th century. The South African societies appear to have been somewhat less irreverent and more functionally Organised than their Dutch counterparts (which had a "Keiser" or a "Prince" rather than the local Chairman and Secretary as leader for example), and where aimed at promoting Dutch literature and culture through poetry recitals, debates and dramatic and musical performances. They had an enormous impact on Dutch - and consequently on Cape Dutch and ultimately Afrikaans - literature and theatre. The first formal South African Rederijkerskamer was Thespis, founded in Paarl in 1857 by ***. A second, very famous one was Aurora, founded in Paarl in 1862, which appears to have gone through a number of phases and - though initalliy shortlived - eventually survived into the twentieth century. Revived as Aurora II in 1866 in Cape Town, it owed much of its success to the active participation of the prolific playwrights Melt Brink and H.W. Teengs. After its collapse in 1887, it was once more revived by Brink as Aurora III in 1909 and existed till 1914. Another Rederijker'skamer of note was Onze Taal, founded in Pretoria in 1890 and active till 1912. *** (See entries on individual companies. Sources: Bosman, 1928 and 1980; Binge, 1969; Fletcher, 1994)

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