Theatre Council of Natal

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The Theatre Council of Natal, perhaps best known by its acronym of TECON, was of one of a number of arts and culture organizations associated with the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s-1980s, and certainly one of the more important protest theatre movements of the 1970s.

Founded by Roy Jagesar, Smiley Peters, Rad Thambadoo, Srini Moodley, Sam Moodley, Ronnie Govender, Benji Francis, Saths Cooper and other students of the University of Durban-Westville in 1969. (Kruger, 1999, says 1970).

Tapping into notions of what later became known as Indic Theatre for a while, and espoused by organisations such as the Shah Academy and the Avon Theatre Group, they identified with the essence of the black consciousness movement and gradually shifted from a more literary to a more militant stance and sought direct efforts at conscientization.

The first production was Twelve Angry Men (August 1970) directed by Ben Persad and presented at Bolton Hall. (Kruger 1999 has Osborne’s Look Back in Anger as first production?*). This was followed by In the Heart of Negritude featuring the poetry of Aimé Césaire and Lépold Senghor (1970) and Antigone ’71 (1971) a South African version of Anouilh’s French play, and Black on White (1971). From this time onward TECON became a Black Consciousness organisation open only to members from the Black community. It presented works at the Himalaya Hotel and at the YMCA - Beatrice Street. In 1972 they co-sponsored a festival at the Orient Hall, Durban, to found the South African Black Theatre Union (SABTU). Their production there was W.W.Mackay’s Requiem for Brother X, one they repeated at the second festival in Cape Town in December that year. Though Loren Kruger (1999), asserts that when two of the officers of TECON (Sam Moodley and Saths Cooper) were banned in March 1973 and TECON itself became a banned organisation, the council effectively ceased to exist, this does not quite seem to have been the case. According to other sources members of TECON were (once more?) detained on 25 September 1974 on a charge of being members of a subversive organisation and during the course of 1975 and 1976 they produced performances of Govender's The Lahnee's Pleasure, which enjoyed an extensive run, as well as controversial Fugard's Statements.

However, after the Soweto riots and during the run of the latter play, TECON was finally brought to its knees by the combination of detentions, confiscation of material, and general harassment of its members.


Loren Kruger, 1999

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