Political theatre

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As a general term

Political theatre often simply refers to any theatrical performance or event which has an overt political agenda or message – as distinct from plays with a social agenda or an entertainment agenda. (Of course, these are often intermingled as one finds in the works of Pieter-Dirk Uys, P.G. du Plessis, Paul Slabolepszy and the later Mbongeni Ngema for example). Not to be confused with protest theatre, (which constitutes a specific form of political theatre aimed at opposing the current regime or political situation in any country), for political theatre may also include plays that are actually supportive of a status quo.(see for example the role of public performances such as pageants and patriotic plays written to celebrate key national achievements).

As a specific genre

However the term itself has on occasion been used in a more specific sense by certain commentators (e.g. Erwin Piscator, Bertolt Brecht, Robert Bentley, Robert Brustein).

Political theatre in South Africa

As general term

The term has often been used in a way that referred specifically to the Anti-apartheid period of 1960-1990, whereas in fact political theatre of various kinds is has been a feature of the theatre landscape from the very beginning, from the war dances and politically inspired praise poems of the indigenous African nations to the plays inspired by British imperialism, the labour riots of the 1920’s, the rise of Afrikaner nationalism and black consciousness.

As specific genre

Here we find a number of forms used in South Africa:


Alternative theatre

Anti-apartheid theatre

People's theatre

Popular theatre

Protest theatre

Theatre of defiance

Theatre of determination

Testimonial theatre

Theatre as a tool

Theatre as weapon

Resistance theatre

Theatre for resistance

Theatre for change

Theatre of defiance

Theatre for development

Theatre of determination

Theatre of testimony

Theatre for healing

Theatre for liberation

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