To mark the 20th anniversary of the passing of theatre legend Barney Simon, the Baxter Theatre Centre, in association with the National Arts Festival, is proud to revive his hit production Born in the RSA, 30 years after its world premiere.
This historic and important play comes to the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from 8 July to 8 August at 7pm, following its debut at the National Arts Festival from 2 to 4 July.
The docu-drama, which was devised by Barney and the original cast, is directed by Thoko Ntshinga, who performed the role of Thenjiwe in the original production. It showcased an ensemble of artists who have become theatre blue-bloods in the South African stage, television and film industry.
At its first performance at the Market Theatre in 1985, the formidable cast was made up of Fiona Ramsay, Terry Norton, Vanessa Cooke, Neil McCarthy, Timmy Kwebulana, Thoko Ntshinga and Gcina Mlhope. The play was a resounding sold-out success before making its Cape Town debut at the Baxter in March 1986. It toured to great acclaim in England and the USA, where The New York Times wrote “… dramatic, emotional and intellectual energy …” The Star described it as “brilliantly perceptive,” while The Citizen called it “powerful” and the Sunday Times said, “A play infinitely worth seeing”.
Through a process of improvisations the cast created what was described as a living newspaper, remaining true to the Barney Simon tradition of making theatre. By fusing and interconnecting monologues and stories, the riveting drama lays bare a slice of everyday South Africa and its people during the state of emergency at the height of apartheid. The interwoven testimonies of the seven characters, all ordinary citizens - from a teacher, a housewife, a lawyer to an activist and a police spy - is brought into focus as they uncover the dangers of the oppressive system of government at the time.
Barney was born on 13 April 1932 and died on 30 June 1995, aged 63. His impressive canon of work includes Phiri, Hey Listen, People, People Too, Storytime, Cincinnati, Cold Stone Jug, Call Me Woman, Marico Moonshine and Manpower, Woza Albert!, Black Dog/ Inj’Emnyama, Outers, Klaaglied vir Kous, Inyanga - about Women in Africa, Eden and Other Places, Score me the Ages, Starbrites, Singing the Times, Silent Movie and The Suit.
Barney was widely respected as one of this country’s most innovative and visionary playwrights and directors. In 1976 he co-founded and became artistic director of the Market Theatre, alongside Mannie Manim, who was the lighting designer for the original production of Born in the RSA. He perfected the art of workshopping productions, which involved sending his actors onto the streets to experience first-hand the actual lives and realities of the characters which they would later portray on stage, during the state of emergency in 1985. His method also used collaborative writing and a variety of genres to create and develop the work.
Director Ntshinga was highly praised and went on to receive several nominations and awards for her portrayal of Christine in the international hit production Mies Julie, which premiered at the National Arts Festival in 2011. With Born in the RSA, she brings together a dynamic new generation of seven actors to bring to life this remarkable production that salutes a legend of South African theatre history. They are Faniswa Yisa, Emily Child, Francis Chouler, Roeline Daneel, Joanna Evans, Dobs Madotyeni and Zanele Radu.
“Not only are we paying tribute to my mentor - a giant and pioneer who has left an indelible mark and rich legacy in this country’s theatre history,” says Lara Foot, CEO and artistic director of the Baxter Theatre Centre and producer of this revival production. “We are also celebrating this iconic production, directed by the extraordinary Thoko Ntshinga. I am very excited and humbled to be part of the team paying homage to the memory of my friend Barney Simon, and it is most fitting that it should premiere at the 41st National Arts Festival before transferring to the Baxter.”
An exhibition about the life and work of Barney Simon by the University of Cape Town Drama Department will also be on display in the Baxter foyer for the duration of the season.
Born in the RSA premieres at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from 2 to 4 July and then transfers to the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio with low price previews on 8 and 9 July, opening on 10 July and it runs until 8 August at 7pm nightly, with matinees on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11am.
Ticket prices range from R120 (previews and matinees), R130 (Tuesday to Thursday) and R150 on Fridays and Saturdays. The Baxter Monday special applies where patrons pay only R120 for a light meal in the restaurant and a performance on 13, 20, 27 July and 3 August at 7pm.
Booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket.com or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. For discounted corporate, schools or block-bookings, charities or fundraisers, contact Sharon on 021 680 3962, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Carmen on 021 680 3993, email email@example.com.