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:
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